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56 Dead After Russian Trawler Sinks


Russian Emergencies Ministry ship is seen through the window of a helicopter during a rescue operation after a Russian trawler Dalniy Vostok sank off the coast of Kamchatka, off the Sea of Okhotsk in Russia in this April 2, 2015 photo provided by Russia's

At least 56 people are dead after a Russian trawler sank in the Sea of Okhotsk in Russia's far east Wednesday.

Emergency officials said 63 of 132 of the crew members on aboard the ship were rescued after the Dalniy Vostok sank in icy waters near Russia's Kamchatka peninsula. Thirteen people are still missing.

Officials say the ship sank in a mere 15 minutes, with the water temperature near the freezing mark.

The most seriously injured were being airlifted to the city of Magadan, some 250 kilometers to the north.

Sea of Ohotsk, Russia
Sea of Ohotsk, Russia

At least 14 local fishing vessels are helping with the search and rescue mission.

The trawler was carrying 78 Russians and 54 foreign nationals from Myanmar, Ukraine, Lithuania and Vanuatu.

The cause of the accident is still not known, although investigators say the ship may have hit an object in the water. A local official told Reuters news agency that the crew may have violated safety rules by overloading it, affecting its balance.

History of transportation disasters

Russia has a long history of road, air and sea disasters, many caused by negligence or violation of safety regulations.

"At this time we do not know what might have caused the tragedy,'' Viktor Klepikov, coordinating captain of the Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky maritime rescue coordination centre conducting the search, told Reuters by telephone.

Emergencies Minister Vladimir Puchkov said more than 10 possible causes were being considered by investigators.

But the acting governor of Sakhalin island, Oleg Kozhemyako, told LifeNews television: "Given the fact that the tragedy occurred quickly and unexpectedly, and the ship was registered and met all technical requirements, I think there was a violation of rules when it comes to overload and balancing of the vessel.''

Russia's TASS news agency quoted Sergei Khabarov, deputy head of the Kamchatka region, as saying the cargo storage capacity may have been exceeded.

President Vladimir Putin sent his condolences and ordered all necessary measures to help the survivors, some of whom were suffering from hypothermia.

Poor safety record

The home port of the trawler, which was owned by Magellan LLC, was Nevelsk in Russia's Sakhalin region.

It was one of Russia's worst maritime disasters in decades. In 2011, an ageing, overcrowded tourist boat sank in Russia's Volga River, killing 122 people.

More than 50 died when a drilling rig with 67 crew on board capsized and sank off Sakhalin in December 2011 while being towed through a winter storm.

In August 2000, during his first term as president, Putin faced criticism for not acting quickly over the sinking of a nuclear-powered submarine on which all 118 people aboard died.

Some material for this report came from Reuters

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