4 dead, 49 missing in Russian oil rig accident: official

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The toll rose to four dead and 49 missing after a Russian oil rig sank off the coast of Far Eastern Sakhalin island in freezing cold water Sunday, federal officials said as rescue helicopters were pulled to shore for the night.

"Fourteen people were found and rescued from the water," said Russia's federal sea and river agency. "Four people in wetsuits were located in the water without any signs of life" but rescuers were unable to pull them out because of the poor weather conditions, the agency said in a statement.

The Kolskoye oil rig platform with 67 on board was 200 kilometres (120 miles) from shore when the accident occurred at 0145 GMT amid high winds and in temperatures of minus 17 degrees Celsius (1.4 Fahrenheit).

Two of the rescued people suffered from exposure and another two had minor injuries, the regional emergency officials said. They declined to say whether there was any hope of finding any more of the missing victims alive.

The potential death toll of 53 comes five months after 122 people drowned in the Volga river when the overcrowded pleasure boat Bulgaria sank in the Tatarstan region after capsizing in stormy weather.

© 2011 AFP

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