Russian trawler sinking: At least 54 dead as ship sinks in Sea of Okhotsk

Drifting ice in the Pacific is one possible explanation for the disaster

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The Independent Online

At least 54 people have died and 15 are missing after a Russian freezer trawler carrying an international crew of 132 sank in far-eastern Russia.

The Dalniy Vostok went down in the Sea of Okhotsk off the Kamchatka Peninsula, 330 km (205 miles) west of the Krutogorovsky settlement, at around 6.30am (8.30pm GMT Wednesday).

Emergency services in Kamchatka, citing the head of the rescue operation, said 63 crew members were rescued, many of whom were suffering from hypothermia.

The fate of the remaining 15 from the Dalny Vostok trawler is currently unknown.

No cause for the sinking was given, but the Interfax news agency said that large amounts of drifting ice may have damaged the body of the ship.

The trawler sent no distress signals prior to sinking, Interfax said.

Viktor Klepikov, coordinating captain of the Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky maritime rescue coordination centre, said: "The rescue operation is going on, we are still looking for 15 people."

Russian news agency Tass reported rescuers as saying they had recovered the bodies of the 54 victims.

Among the 132 crew members, 78 are from Russia, 42 from Myanmar and the rest from Latvia, Ukraine and Vanuatu.

The Russian Emergencies Ministry sent an Mi-8 helicopter with rescuers and doctors aboard to deliver medical assistance and transport rescued crew members to hospitals in the city of Magadan, the ministry said on its website.

It also set up a telephone hotline for families of the crew.

The search and rescue operation involved 1,300 people and 29 units of equipment, emergency services said.

Russia is known for its poor air, road and water safety record. In 2011, an overcrowded tourist boat sank in the Volga River, killing nearly 130 people.

Additional reporting by AP, Reuters