July 11, 2011 in Nation/World

Passenger cruiser sinks fast in Russia

100-plus missing, dead include children; crews seek survivors
Sergei L. Loiko Los Angeles Times
 
Associated Press photo

A relative embraces a survivor of a boat sinking Sunday on the Volga River near Kazan in central Russia.
(Full-size photo)

Ship may have been overfull, official says

The ship may have sunk because it was overloaded, a law enforcement source told Interfax news agency. The vessel was made in Czechoslovakia in 1955 and was equipped with two rescue boats that could accommodate 36 people and several rescue rafts for 120 people, Interfax reported.

MOSCOW – More than 100 people were missing and feared dead after a passenger cruiser sank on the Volga River on Sunday afternoon, Russian officials said.

The 56-year-old double-deck riverboat Bulgaria was carrying 188 people – 142 passengers and 46 crew members – when it went under about 2 miles from the shore of the Volga, in central Russia near the regional capital of Kazan, about 500 miles east of Moscow.

Two bodies were quickly recovered, officials said, and about 80 passengers had been rescued, 13 of whom were rushed to hospitals, Irina Andrianova, Russian Emergency Situations Ministry spokeswoman, said in televised remarks.

Divers found the ship on its side at the bottom, about 60 feet down, and were seeking to determine whether anyone inside was still alive.

“According to our divers chances to find people alive are minimal,” Andrianova said.

Emergency Situations Minister Sergei Shoigu ordered dozens of rescue workers to determine whether survivors had managed to make it to any of 13 nearby islands.

The boat sank during a thunderstorm accompanied by strong rain, said a survivor whose wife and grandson were missing.

Other survivors said the boat was packed with tourists, and the sinking occurred very quickly.

Russian television showed footage of shocked survivors whose relatives were feared dead. One young woman said she lost her 10-year-old daughter.

“We all found ourselves buried alive inside the boat like in a sarcophagus and were trying to get out through the window,” the woman, wrapped in a long towel, said in Kazan’s port. “I was holding her by the hand, but then she began to choke and pushed me away.”

The woman added that there were dozens of children on board.

“Our baby remained there, our baby remained there,” cried a tearful man embracing a woman who buried her head in his chest.

A middle-age survivor said two passing cargo boats failed to help even though many victims were in the water desperately waving. Finally, a passenger liner stopped and picked up survivors.

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