Death toll in Russian rig disaster rises to 17: official

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The official death toll in Russia's drilling rig disaster rose to 17 on Thursday after another six bodies were pulled out of the water.

Rescuers were meanwhile considering abandoning the search due to worsening weather, officials said.

"Six bodies have been pulled out of the water today," spokesman for the emergencies ministry Alexander Ivelsky told AFP, taking the official death toll to 17 from 14 earlier.

A drilling rig with 67 people sank over the weekend in the Okhotsk Sea as it was being towed from the Kamchatka peninsula towards the island of Sakhalin. Only fourteen people have been rescued.

Officials said earlier 11 bodies had been recovered from the Okhotsk Sea, while another three had been sighted. The three were among the six corpses retrieved on Thursday.

Ivelsky said the rescue operation could be abandoned in the coming days as weather conditions were significantly worsening.

Officials have so far refused to declare the 36 missing dead.

The body of the only foreigner on board the rig, Bulgarian Zhivko Zhekov, was among the missing, according to a list of the crew posted on the website of Arktikmorneftegazrazvedka, the rig's owner based in the northern city of Murmansk.

© 2011 AFP

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