Europe

Russia Volga boat tragedy: Medvedev orders review

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Media captionThe BBC's Steve Rosenberg in Moscow says the tragedy has shocked Russia

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev has demanded checks on all transport services after an overloaded boat sank on the Volga River, leaving 110 people missing and feared dead.

Mr Medvedev said the old, double-decker tourist boat was in a poor condition.

Around 80 people were rescued on the River Volga in Tatarstan, about 750km (450 miles) east of Moscow.

Officials say the boat's capacity was 120 passengers and crew, but it had been carrying 208 people on Sunday.

At least 50 children are feared to be among the dead. A survivor said children had gathered in a play area on deck just before the boat went down.

Image caption Survivors said the boat sank without warning in a few minutes

At a government meeting on Monday Mr Medvedev called for "a complete check on all means of passenger transport". Russia had too many "old rust tubs", he complained.

He declared Tuesday a day of mourning across Russia for the Volga River victims.

Officials say there is little hope of finding any more survivors.

So far 41 bodies have been recovered. Divers saw many more bodies inside the sunken vessel.

Boat sank suddenly

The double-decker Bulgaria was caught in a storm on Sunday while sailing from Bolgary to the regional capital, Kazan.

It sank within minutes at one of the widest points of the river, at about 1400 (1000 GMT).

The bad weather, mechanical failure on the 55-year-old vessel and overcrowding have all been cited as possible reasons why the boat sank.

Nearly 50 Russian divers were scouring the murky river on Monday.

Igor Panshin, head of the Emergencies Ministry's Volga Regional Centre, was shown commenting on NTV: "[The divers] were tapping on the hull in hope of getting possible replies. Unfortunately, none came.

"They have now shone light into the holds and the restaurants, and they see that there are [dead bodies of] people inside."

Image caption The Bulgaria was overcrowded and sank rapidly during a storm, officials said

Negligence claim

The Russian authorities have launched a criminal investigation, amid suspicions that negligence contributed to the tragedy.

Emergencies Minister Sergei Shoigu said the boat was overcrowded, carrying 208 people, of whom 25 had not been registered as passengers.

Russian media also report that one of the boat's two engines was not working.

Investigators quoted by Itar-Tass news agency said that even before the boat had set sail on Sunday one of its two engines had malfunctioned and the vessel had been listing.

The 80m (260ft) boat sank several kilometres from the shore near the village of Sukeyevo, about 80km south of Kazan.

The Volga, Europe's largest river, is popular with cruise boats at this time of the year.

Are you in the vicinity of the sinking? Do you know anyone who may have been on the boat? Send us your comments and experiences.

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