Maximum punishment for captains of vessels passing sinking ship:Russia

By IANS/RIA Novosti,

Moscow: The captains of two passing vessels who failed to come to the aid of the Bulgaria, which sank in the Volga river with some 200 passengers on board, will get “maximum punishment”.

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Russian Transport Minister Igor Levitin said this Monday.

A total of 79 people were rescued from the twin-deck Bulgaria which sank Sunday at 09.58 GMT near the village of Syukeyevo in the Kansko-Ustinovsky district of the Republic of Tatarstan. The ship was on a trip from the town of Bolgar to the port city of Kazan.

“According to preliminary information, at about the same time [the Bulgaria sank], two vessels passed. We know the ships and the captains’ names. They are being questioned in the cities where they are presently located. We will use all legal measures in order to give [the captains] the maximum punishment,” Levitin said.

The two ships in question are a tug and barge and an oil vessel. The names of the captains were not immediately available.

Several minutes after the Bulgaria overturned and sank, another passenger cruise ship, the Arabella, came to the aid of the survivors and began pulling them on board.

The latest toll in the twin-deck Bulgaria wreckage reached 58 with a total of 79 people rescued and over 50 still missing.

Up to 50 children could have been in the music room, a regional emergencies centre’s spokesman said. “Divers are presently approaching the music hall, where children’s bodies could be found.”

The Bulgaria may not have had enough life-saving equipment for all those on board. The ship had life rafts for 120 people, and two lifeboats for 36 people, as well as 165 life vests for adults and 12 for children, the ministry said.

More than 100 divers are going from cabin to cabin in search of bodies, as well as the bars and restaurant. Some of the bodies discovered in the sunken ship had life vests on, showing that people most likely did not have enough time to jump ship.

Witnesses said the ship sank in two minutes.