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A 5,800-square-kilometre ice block has broken off from Antarctica’s Larsen C ice shelf and is now floating northwards, a German polar research centre said on Wednesday.

Measuring 175 kilometres long and around 50 kilometres wide, the iceberg is one of the largest that scientists have registered in the past three decades and will take two to three years to completely melt, according to Germany’s Alfred Wegener Institute.

A major rift on the Larsen C ice shelf that was years in the making caused the iceberg to break off.

Researchers at the Midas Project group, which monitors the Antarctic region,said there was no indication that the crack was a result of climate change.

Ice shelves are floating masses of ice held together by glaciers or ice sheets. The Larsen ice shelf is made up of four individual parts, with Larsen C being the largest.

– DPA