Tourist Boat Toll Rises To 120

MOSCOW (Reuters) – Divers pulled six more bodies from the wreck of a tourist boat that sank in the Volga River two weeks ago, raising the death toll to 120 in Russia’s worst river disaster in decades, officials said on Sunday.

Two people are still missing but presumed dead, an Emergencies Ministry spokesman said, as the authorities worked to search the wreck and lift it to the surface.

The overcrowded, 56-year-old vessel sank in stormy waters on a riverbend in Russia’s central region of Tatarstan on July 10.

Just 79 of the 201 people on board were rescued. Work is under way to identify the bodies found on the upper deck of the sunken boat on Sunday, the spokesman said.

State television images from inside the captain’s cabin showed a wall clock stuck at 12:30 p.m., when the ship capsized within minutes after listing to one side.

The steering wheel was pulled hard right and engine set to full steam, TV showed, suggesting the captain made a last ditch effort to reach the shore.

The sinking, in which many of the victims were children, shocked the nation and prompted calls for improved safety and a crackdown on systematic negligence and corruption.

The Bulgaria, a Soviet-era river cruiser built in 1955, listed to one side and suffered engine trouble when it set out from port operating without a proper licence.

Russian investigators have arrested the boat’s tour operator and local river fleet inspector in a criminal probe.

Cranes have partially raised the vessel and moved it to shallower waters, where it will be drained of river water and silt.

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