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Search for Russian trawler's crew resumes; 56 dead, 13 still missing

At least 56 die in Russian trawler sinking off far east coast

Russian emergency response workers continued to comb the icy waters of the Sea of Okhotsk early Friday for 13 crewmen missing and feared dead after the sinking of a fishing trawler early Thursday with 132 crew members on board.

Sixty-three survivors rescued from the disaster area 200 miles west of the Kamchatka Peninsula were headed to a port on Sakhalin Island in Russia’s far east, as were 56 bodies recovered Thursday, the RIA Novosti news agency reported, quoting an official of the Ministry for Emergency Situations.

At least 10 of the survivors were suffering from hypothermia and were being treated on the cargo ship Andromeda, which was carrying them to the port of Korsakov, Russian news reports said.

There was little hope of finding any of the missing crewmen alive as they were believed to have been trapped in the engine room of the Dalny Vostok when the vessel sank in less than 15 minutes, the Tass news agency said in a dispatch that reported all survivors had been rescued.

The vessel's crew members were 78 Russians, 42 people from Myanmar and the remainder from Latvia, Ukraine and Vanuatu, Tass said.

One possible cause of the sinking might have been an overloaded dragnet, Oleg Kozhemyako, the acting governor of the Sakhalin region, where the Dalny Vostok’s home port was, told LifeNews television.

“Given the fact that the tragedy occurred quickly and unexpectedly, and the ship was registered and met all technical requirements, I think there was a violation of rules when it comes to overload and balancing of the vessel,” Kozhemyako said.

Another theory was that the vessel collided with an ice mass.

The emergencies ministry was directing response operations, which included 19 vessels. The ministry's Moscow-based chief, Vladimir Puchkov, said rescue officials were considering whether helicopters could be sent to more swiftly evacuate the injured.

The Andromeda wasn't expected to reach its port on Sakhalin until Monday, Tass said.

The sinking of the Dalny Vostok, which means “far east,” was one of the country's deadliest maritime disasters in years. An overcrowded tourist vessel sank in the Volga River in 2011, killing 122 people, and more than 50 died when a drilling rig sank in a storm later that year off Sakhalin Island.

In August 2000, the nuclear-powered submarine Kursk sank in the Barents Sea and rested intact on the seabed, where all 118 sailors on board died during a weeklong rescue effort.

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Copyright © 2016, Los Angeles Times

UPDATES

3:22 p.m.: This article has been updated with information about the search continuing Friday.

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