Russian tour boat sinks, killing over 100

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Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Russian tour boat.

The Russian tour boat Bulgaria, carrying 208 people despite being certified to carry only 120, sank Sunday on Russia's Volga river. Yesterday, prosecutors opened a wide ranging investigation into Russia's transportation industry, including an examination of the failure of governmental regulation and safety inspections of the tour boat industry.

Around 80 people were saved and perhaps as many as 128 drowned, including up to fifty children caught in a playroom. Children were undocumented passengers who came aboard with their parents. Rescuers equipped with helicopters are currently looking for survivors, and teams of 50 divers are searching the vessel and say that people are still trapped inside. But officials hold little hope that more survivors will be found.

A day of mourning was declared in Russia yesterday. Riverboats flew their flags at half-mast.

Not since 1986, when two ships collided, killing 423 people, has Russia experienced a worse maritime disaster.

Summer river cruises are a favorite outing in Russia, but river boats have fallen into disrepair since Soviet times. "We have far too many old ships sailing our waters," President Dmitri Medvedev said on Monday. He vowed to bring criminal actions against the ship's operator. Also, two commercial vessels that ignored drowning passengers and did not stop to help are expected to be charged. Yesterday, prosecutors opened an investigation into Russia's transportation industry, including an examination of the failure of governmental regulation and safety inspections of the tour boat industry.

The 80m (260ft) boat was caught in bad weather on Sunday and sank near Tatarstan while sailing from Bolgary to Kazaon, about 750km (450 miles) east of Moscow at a part of the Volga River that is very wide and considered wild. The vessel sank within a few minutes after encountering the storm.

According to reports, the double-decker vessel was 56 years old and was in poor condition. One of its two engines failed before it left on its voyage on Sunday and the ship had been listing. The river boat industry lacks adequate regulation and the boats are not given complete safety inspections.


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