Russia prepares to raise sunken Volga boat

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Russia on Sunday was preparing to raise the sunken riverboat from the bottom of the Volga River in an operation involving over 800 people, a week after it sank in a storm killing at least 114.

An overcrowded cruise ship sank last Sunday in a storm on Russia's Volga River in the country's worst shipping disaster in recent memory, which the Kremlin blamed on safety breaches.

Authorities have found the bodies of 114 people including 28 children. Another 15 are considered missing.

On Saturday authorities kicked off an elaborate, multi-stage operation to lift the boat from the bottom of the river in the central region of Tatarstan.

The actual raising of the 56-year-old boat, which is now lying on its right side, is expected to take place later Sunday after preliminary works are over.

"An operation to put the vessel on an even keel has been under way since 7 am (0300 GMT)," Andrei Rodygin, spokesman for emergencies ministry, told AFP.

He said more than 800 personnel including dozens of divers and two huge floating cranes were involved in the operation.

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin earlier this week made a surprise visit to the city of Kazan to which the boat was sailing when it sank.

Putin layed purple roses at the river port and blamed greed and safety violations for the accident.

© 2011 AFP

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