An overcrowded Russian boat was in dire need of repairs when it sank in the Volga River with 208 people on board, officials said Monday, the death toll rising to 58 confirmed dead.
Only licensed to carry 120, the riverboat Bulgaria sank Sunday two miles from shore near Syjkeyevo village in Tatarstan, roughly 800 kilometers east of Moscow. The Bulgaria had not undergone major repairs in 30 years and was operating without its left engine, the Los Angeles Times reported Marina Gridneva, a spokeswoman for the Russian prosecutor general's office, saying.
Igor Panishin, an official with the regional Emergencies Ministry, told RIA Novosti that Bulgaria sank within eight minutes.
According to officials, 188 people were aboard the boat when it went down quickly in a thunderstorm; Russia's emergency minister said it now appeared 208 people were on the boat.
Eighty people were saved, Emergency Situations Minister Sergei Shoigu said. Divers recovered the bodies of 58 people, including five children. The remaining passengers were still missing.
Unfortunately, I have to say that after examining the ship that there is practically no hope of finding anybody alive there, Shoigu said.
Fuel for the left engine had been pumped to the boat's right side, which resulted in the boat listing four degrees, Volga region transport prosecutor Sergei Belov said.
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev called for a national day of mourning Tuesday, and dozens of divers continued to pull bodies from the boat, which sank in 60 feet of water not far from Kazan, a regional capital.
The number of old, shabby boats that float [in our country] is beyond measure, Medvedev said in televised remarks. And now it happened with most horrible consequences.
The president ordered that all such passenger boats undergo repairs or be taken out of service.
Russia's fleet of passenger vessels is of course very old, and although the state owns just a portion of these boats it doesn't mean that the state should avoid controlling them,' Medvedev said.