Numerous news sources are reporting that a cruise ship carrying 173 passengers and crew sank in Russia’s Volga river today.
The sinking involved the Bulgaria cruise ship, which had 140 passengers and 33 crewmembers aboard.
To date, there have been reports of two confirmed dead bodies recovered and 96 people unaccounted for after the Bulgaria sank at 1358 local time (0858 GMT) in the Tatarstan region, 500 miles east of Moscow.
A helicopter and two rescue vessels are reportedly at the scene of the sinking.
According to the Mail Online, the Bulgaria sank near the village of Syukeevo in the Kansko-Ustinovsky district near the region’s capital, Kazan. The Bulgaria belongs to a local tourism company and was on its way from the town of Bulgar to the regional capital, Kazan.
The ship was built in 1955 in Czechoslovakia.
July 9, 2011 Update:
Russian authorities initiated a criminal investigation into the river sinking, according to the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation. This Russian website identified the operator of the river cruise as "Argo Rech Tours."
There are conflicting accounts of the number of people missing. The Russian website states that 169 people have been rescued, although most news accounts state that there are 80 -100 still missing.
July 10, 2011 Update:
A Russian website has heart wrenching photographs of the survivors. Updated information from Russia regarding the recovery efforts can be located here.
July 11, 2011 Update: The Rianovisti newspaper in Russia reports that although the Russian Transport Ministry stated that the vessel had passed a regular "technical inspection" on June 15th and was certified for further use, investigators discovered that the ship "had a list to starboard and its engine was broken" when it left port. It was "heavily overloaded with passengers." There now appears to have been 196 people on the cruise ship. Only 79 were rescued. The video below depicts disturbing images of some of the deceased passengers.
Top: Survivors of Bulgaria sinking – Rianovisti newspaper
Bottom: AFP, Mikhail Mozzhukin
Video credit: The Guardian newspaper