Russian boat salvage may take days: official

18th July 2011, Comments 0 comments

Tired and disappointed Russian salvage teams said Monday they may have to wait days before lifting the Bulgaria pleasure ship off the Volga riverbed following the country's worst boat disaster.

Up to 129 people were killed when the overcrowded double-decker craft sank in a wide bend of Europe's longest river on July 10.

Divers are still scouring the shores and surface for 15 more bodies after pulling 114 victims -- including 28 children -- from the current and expanding the search to more than 200 kilometres (125 miles) downstream.

Two huge cranes moved into position over the wreck this weekend as crews struggled to pull the crippled craft off its side and secure it with heavy steel cords and special supports before slowly raising it to the surface.

But workers were dealt a setback on Sunday when one of the heavy cables used to steady the boat snapped. Work stopped for the night and teams still struggled to steady the 78-metre (255-foot) boat by Monday evening.

"This operation could take several days," Deputy Transport Minister Viktor Polersky said in televised remarks from the site of the salvage operation.

The accident sparked fury in Russia at the industry's lax security controls. The boat had a history of engine and electrical problems and was listing to its right side when it sailed.

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said the 56-year-old craft operated without a license and blamed the disaster on the "greed" of local tour operators.

Authorities have arrested the tour operator and licensing official on charges that could put them behind bars for 10 years.

But some opposition media have since gone out of their way to skewer state television coverage of the disaster and mock the promises of help coming from top Russian bureaucrats.

"None of the Russian channels tell us that 23 of the crew lived and 12 died, while 54 of the passengers lived and 100 died. Do you see the difference," a survivor named Maria Chernova wrote in the Novaya Gazeta opposition paper.

"And do you know that it was mostly the women and children who died? Because the men, those brutes, would kick the women off the large life rafts," she said.

© 2011 AFP

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