Russia's Putin blames Volga boat deaths on 'greed'
Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin on Thursday blamed "greed" and gross safety violations for a Volga River boat accident that killed up to 129 people in a heavy storm.
"So many deaths. So many children died," Putin said during an unannounced visit to the central Russian city of Kazan to which the boat Bulgaria was sailing when it sank on Sunday afternoon.
"It is horrible that we have to pay such a toll for this irresponsibility, such complacency, such greed," Russia's former president said in televised remarks.
Officials said they had pulled the bodies of 113 people -- including 27 children -- from the river by Thursday evening.
Russia's worst shipping accident in its post-Soviet history came on a top of a series of other disasters involving outdated equipment whose lifespans had long since expired.
The Bulgaria was built in then Czechoslovakia in 1955 and its sinking prompted Russian President Dmitry Medvedev to call for a river transport safety review -- the same instruction he had issued for planes after previous jet disasters.
But the latest accident was also accompanied by allegations of massive negligence on the part of both the tour operators and officials in charge of overseeing safety procedures.
The boat sailed with a faulty left engine and lacking a license to carry tourists. It was also heavily overcrowded and included at least 25 people who never bought tickets or appeared on any registration lists.
Authorities have already arrested two officials and the captains of two vessels that allegedly passed the river wreck on Sunday without stopping to help.
"How could this have happened," Putin lamented.
"How could a company without a license for tourist operations, without a license to use ships -- how did it manage to exist at all? Who sold these tickets? Who allowed them to be sold?", he asked.
© 2011 AFP