Trawler sinks off Russia coast, 56 killed but dozens rescued
A fishing trawler sank in freezing waters off Russia’s far east on Thursday, killing at least 56 people and setting off a frantic search for survivors that led to dozens being rescued alive.
In the worst such accident in recent Russian history, some 132 people were on board the trawler Dalny Vostok when it went down at around 6:30 a.m. (2030 GMT on Wednesday) in the Sea of Okhotsk off Kamchatka peninsula, possibly after a collision.
Sixty-three people were rescued alive while 13 were still missing as rescuers battled roiling seas. The emergency ministry put the death toll at 56.
Survivors were waiting aboard rescue boats for a ship with medics to arrive after a helicopter made a failed attempt to pick them up amid waves as high as two meters, an emergency ministry spokeswoman said.
Those in the most serious condition were to be airlifted to a hospital in the city of Magadan, 250 kilometers (155 miles) to the north.
Russian investigators said the trawler included 78 Russian citizens, 42 Myanmar nationals, five from Vanuatu, three Latvians and four Ukrainians, without elaborating on the nationality of those who died.
“Nine people are in grave condition, some are unconscious and some in a state of shock,” said Tatyana Yukhmanova, spokeswoman for the emergency ministry in the Kamchatka region, which is taking part in the operation.
“Although they were wearing wetsuits, they suffered hypothermia because the water temperature is around zero degrees Celsius (32 degrees Fahrenheit),” she told AFP.
The victims’ bodies will be transported to the port of Korsakov on the island of Sakhalin for identification, but the journey will take three days, RIA-Novosti agency reported.
The 1989-built vessel was operated by Magellan, a company based in Nevelsk, a port city on Sakhalin in the Russian Far East.
The Soviet- built trawler, a 5,700-ton, 104-meter-long factory ship is designed to carry dozens of sailors on fishing trips lasting several months.
It was purchased only last year by Magellan and before that was operated by Baltic marine fishing company and was called Stende.
Speculation mounted on the possible reasons for the accident, in which the ship apparently sank so quickly that the captain did not manage to make a distress call.
Russia’s powerful Investigative Committee launched a probe into the possible violation of safety measures.
Investigators were seizing documentation from the ship’s owners and conducting searches in the ship’s home port in Nevelsk as well as in the far eastern port city of Vladivostok from where the ship departed on Jan. 3.