100 missing after cruiser sinks on river Volga


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The Independent Online

Around 100 people were missing after a passenger boat sank on Russia's Volga river yesterday. The Bulgaria, believed to be on a two-day cruise from the city of Kazan, went down on a stretch of the Volga that is several miles wide. The cause of the accident was unclear.

A spokesman for Russia's Emergencies ministry said that 182 people had been aboard the ship when it went down around two miles from the nearest riverbank, at a point where the river is around 20m (66ft) deep. By early this morning, only two bodies had been recovered.

The regional emergency ministry of Tatarstan said two men managed to swim to shore, while a passing boat picked up another 83 people and the body of a woman. The body of another woman was found later, authorities said. All aboard were believed to be Russian.

There was uncertainty about how many people remained missing yesterday, with a ministry spokesman initially saying 167 people had been rescued, but later revising this figure to 84 people confirmed safe.

There were reports of some survivors reaching the riverbank on improvised rafts. Dozens of children were believed to be among those missing.

The Bulgaria was made in 1955 in Czechoslovakia, and was on the first day of a two-day cruise trip from Kazan, a large, mixed Muslim-Christian city on the Volga.

Most boats of the same class have been updated and re-equipped, according to industry experts, but not the Bulgaria. It was not used on sections of rivers or lakes where the water can get choppy, being reserved for the calm stretches of the middle Volga.