Volga river tragedy

Russian salvage teams will begin an operation on July 16 to raise the wreck of the tour ship Bulgaria, which sank on Sunday in Russia’s Volga River leaving dozens dead – Russian Emergencies Minister Sergei Shoigu said on Tuesday.
The latest casualty report says 205 people were onboard when the vessel capsized and sank in under three minutes. The Emergencies Ministry confirmed the death of 73 people, 11 of them children, on Tuesday.
“The rescue operation will begin on July 16, 5.00 p.m. [local time]” Shoigu said. Two floating cranes are to arrive at the site of the shipwreck by July 17.
The twin-deck Bulgaria sank on Sunday at 01:58 PM Moscow time (09:58 GMT) near the village of Syukeyevo in the Kansko-Ustinovsky district of the Republic of Tatarstan.
The ship (built in 1955 and renovated 30 years ago) had no license for carrying passengers and had a number of safety faults, including a broken engine and a list to starboard as well as being grossly overloaded.
The operators of the Bulgaria had no rights to provide tour services, Oleg Moseev, spokesman for the Russian Federal Agency for Tourism – Rosturism said on Tuesday.
Neither the AgroRechTur company that held the lease of the Bulgaria, nor the Intur-Volga travel agency that sold tickets for the ill-fated cruise were listed in the Unified Russian Federal Roaster of Tour Operators. Neither company was therefore insured.
Witnesses said the vessel rolled on its right side in storm and sank in minutes. Rescuers say that the ill-fated ship could have been sunk by a large wave and may have flooded rapidly due to open portholes and the list.
The ship’s electrician Vasily Bairashev, who survived the wreck, said the captain, Alexander Ostrovsky, tried to keep the vessel afloat when it was caught in storm, but ‘this was already impossible in practice.’

Volga river tragedy

State flags on all the government buildings will be flown at half-staff and all entertainment TV and radio programs will be cancelled in Russia to mourn for the deaths of those killed in one of the worst shipwrecks in decades. The cruise ship Bulgaria sank in Tatarstan on July 10th with an estimated 208 people on board. Only 79 of them have so far been rescued. We have more from Roman Mamonov.
Top Russian officials and leaders of other countries have expressed their condolences to survivors and families of the deceased.
July 10th is going to make it into history of Russia as one of the most mournful days. Condolence letters and telegrams are coming to Kazan from all across Russia and the world. Dozens of people became victims of the tragedy, many children among them. At an emergency meeting with Russian ministers the day before, President Dmitry Medvedev declared July 12th a national day of mourning, delivered his condolences and toughly demanded an immediate inquiry into the causes of the accident to avoid any repetitions.
“A lot of our people have lost their lives. I want to express my condolences to the victims’ families. As for the sunken vessel’s fate, I think we do indeed need to raise the ship in order to fully investigate the circumstances of this tragedy. The conclusions are to be summarized and examined, and not only with regard to this particular disaster, but with regard to all ships of this and other types. We have far too many old ships sailing our waters” – Dmitry Medvedev said.
Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has also expressed his personal profound condolences over so many deaths.
“It was a big tragedy on Sunday – a ship sank in the Volga River. It is a big mischief – whole families, including children, who had been on vacation together, died. It is clear now that dozens died in the catastrophe. I deeply regret the tragedy and want to express support and my sincere condolences to the families of the victims” – said Vladimir Putin.


The ‘Volga Titanic’ sank in three minutes with the music still playing, and at least two passing ships ignored survivors, said passengers who managed to reach shore after the weekend tragedy.
The decrepit Bulgaria riverboat, which was carrying at least 208 people, capsized Sunday in the Volga River in Tatarstan, killing at least 129, including about 30 children – officials said Monday.
An investigation into Russia’s worst maritime disaster in 25 years was in full swing Monday, but the actual cause appeared to have been a lack of air conditioning — which prompted the crew to open portholes that were then flooded by an incoming wave.
President Dmitry Medvedev declared a national day of mourning for Tuesday. He also ordered checks into all passenger transportation in the country, not only riverboats.
Emergency workers were working on the sunken boat late Monday, with more than 300 divers deployed to search the wreck and the surrounding area for bodies – Emergency Situations Minister Sergei Shoigu said, Interfax reported. Robots had to be used to reach the ship’s hold, his deputy Vadim Seregin told RIA-Novosti.
The final death toll could not be established because it remained unclear how many people were on board. Officials reported 79 survivors and 54 recovered bodies. But the Emergency Situations Ministry said at least 75 more people had been on board, bringing the toll to 129.

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