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.

‘Col­li­sion’ Pos­si­ble

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.

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