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Rescue crisis sends chill over luxury Arctic cruise

As the Arctic cruising season gets under way, a strident warning has been issued to tourists seeking the midnight sun that "search-and-rescue capabilities are limited due to the large distances between populated areas".

The alert questions whether the cruise industry could cope with a serious incident in the icy waters of the far north, saying: "The combined search-and-rescue ship capacity may well be less than would be needed to cope with even one of the small cruise ships that frequent parts of the Arctic."

The warning triggered angry responses from tour operators. Paul Goldstein, of the adventure specialist Exodus said: "Exodus has never had clients involved in an incident involving either animals or ice in Spitsbergen. We are disappointed by the negative publicity this ridiculous warning will generate."

The warning was published on Britain's Foreign Office website. A Foreign Office spokesperson said: "The increasing importance that the FCO places on crisis preparedness has led us to work more closely with crisis-response authorities and agencies in country, and has made us aware of potential risks and our obligation therefore to highlight them."