Russia has ordered the urgent evacuation of the 16-strong crew of a drifting Arctic research station after the ice floe that hosts the floating laboratory began to disintegrate, officials said.
Natural Resources and Ecology Minister Sergei Donskoi set a three-day deadline to draft a plan to evacuate the North Pole-40 floating research station.
"The destruction of the ice has put at risk the station's further work and life of its staff," the ministry said in a statement on Thursday.
The station is home to 16 personnel including oceanologists, meteorologists, engineers and a doctor.
It conducts meteorological research, monitors environmental pollution and conducts a number of tests.
If the situation is not addressed, it may also result in the loss of equipment and contaminate the environment near Canada's economic zone where the station is located, the ministry added.
The floating research laboratory will be relocated to Bolshevik Island in the Russian Arctic with the help of an ice-breaker.
"The ice floe has crumbled into six pieces," said Arkady Soshnikov, spokesman for the Arctic and Antarctic Research Institute.
"The people are not at risk but it is not possible to work in these conditions. The ice may disintegrate so a decision has been taken to evacuate," he said.
Scientists point to increasing signs of global warming in the Arctic, which is being significantly affected by climate change.
The United Nations weather agency said this month that the Arctic's sea ice melted at a record pace in 2012, the ninth-hottest year on record.
Vladimir Sokolov, who oversees the floating station at the Saint Petersburg-based Arctic and Antarctic Research Institute, said the ice was disintegrating because of climate change.
"This has made the Arctic research significantly harder - the ice has become thinner and the weather conditions more difficult," he said.
He said it was important to continue studying the Arctic.
"The Arctic Ocean, just like the Antarctic, is the 'refrigerator' of the earth. It significantly affects the climate of our planet.
"If this 'refrigerator' has a glitch and we do not know about it, it leads to mistakes in forecasts and affects the quality of decision-making on entire territories," he said.