Search Operation in Russian Ship Tragedy Nearing Completion

July 15, 2011
Volga River Citing a statement from Russia's Emergency Situations Ministry, CNN has reported that divers in a search-and-recovery mission at the site of the Bulgaria, the Russian passenger vessel that sank last weekend in the Volga River, have completed their investigation of the ship's interior. The bodies of 66 women, 28 children and 20 men have been recovered, bringing the official death toll from the incident to 114, with 15 people still listed as missing, the news agency reported. Some of the 79 passengers and crew who survived the disaster were picked up by a passing river boat, while others used makeshift rafts to get to shore. Divers continue to search for bodies around the sunken ship and downstream from the site as preparations are being made to raise the cruise ship from the river bottom on Saturday. An investigation has been launched into the cause of the sinking -- Russia's worst maritime disaster in three decades -- and earlier this week, the Russian Prosecutor's Office confirmed that the ship did not have a license to carry passengers, had a damaged left engine and had not undergone repairs in more than 30 years. The Moscow Times newspaper said weather may also have been a factor in the sinking, as squalls were reported shortly before the Bulgaria sank in more than 60 feet of water. Russian state TV reported that there were 156 life vests onboard the ship, which was carrying 208 people, and that the ship had an operational limit of about 150 passengers. Sources for the figures were cited as top government and law enforcement officials. Because the ship went down in a matter of minutes, only a few of the lifeboats were able to be deployed, and survivors report that at least two passing ships ignored them floundering in the water. Four people face criminal charges in the incident, including the director of the company that leased the tourist boat and a ship registrar who certified it. The vessel, built in the former Czechoslovakia in 1955, is said to have had dozens of cabins and two restaurants. This is the peak season for tourism on the Volga, which is lined by many of Russia's largest cities. --by Jamey Bergman, U.K. Web Content Manager