Sick US national awaits medical evacuation flight from blizzard-bound Antarctic base

WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) — An American in serious medical condition waited for blizzard conditions to ease Monday so an airplane could land in Antarctica to evacuate him to hospital in New Zealand, officials said.

A New Zealand air force Orion airplane was on standby to fly to the U.S. McMurdo Station science base on the north Antarctic coast to pick up the man, said Matt Vance, a spokesman for government agency Antarctica New Zealand.

Officials would not identify the man or give details on his medical condition.

Raytheon Polar Services, which runs McMurdo Station for the U.S. National Science Foundation, said the airplane was waiting for the blizzard conditions to clear enough to touch down during the short window of daylight currently available each day to land, load the patient and refuel.

"We're looking at a time on the ground of an hour to an hour and a half," Raytheon's New Zealand operations manager, Kerry Chuck, told The Associated Press.

"The medical advice is to get him out of there as soon as possible for hospital care," he said, adding that the man remained in a serious, though stable, condition at the base.

The flight from the southern New Zealand city of Christchurch to McMurdo's ice runway takes about seven hours.

An Orion left for Antarctica at 6:00 a.m. Sunday (1800 GMT Saturday), but was forced to turn back a few hours later after receiving reports of blizzards at McMurdo Station.

Antarctica New Zealand chief executive Lou Sanson said Antarctica was still in the grip of winter with temperatures of about minus 32 degrees Fahrenheit (-35 Celsius). The aircraft has to arrive in the middle of the day to take best advantage of the short daily period of sunlight, he said.