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175 million rubles paid to families of MS Bulgaria wreck victims – minister

September 02, 2011, 20:42 UTC+3
Igor Levitin had chaired a meeting of the governmental commission attended by Tatarstan President Rustam Minnikhanov
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KAZAN, September 2 (Itar-Tass) —— A total of 175 million rubles were paid to the families of the MS Bulgaria wreck victims, Russian Transport Minister Igor Levitin told Itar-Tass on Friday.

He had chaired a meeting of the governmental commission attended by Tatarstan President Rustam Minnikhanov.

“The governmental commission investigating the Bulgaria wreck in the Volga River held its last meeting in Kazan today. All the proposals have been made and a report has been drafted to be presented to the Russian prime minister within days,” Levitin said.

“The compensations paid to the families of the wreck victims and the injured reached 175 million rubles. All the money has been transferred. Nine children orphaned in the shipwreck have foster parents and allowances,” he said.

The Federal Transport Supervisory Service ended the investigation into the MS Bulgaria shipwreck of July 10 on August 15 and presented a report to the Russian Investigation Committee.

Levitin said that about 2,000 people were involved in the rescue operation, which cost 100 million rubles. “The cost of the vessel’s lifting will be evaluated additionally,” he said.

“The governmental commission decided that the ship owner must sign a contract on scrapping the sunken ship and pay for renting a dock at the shipyards,” he said.

“The disposal deadline will depend on investigative procedures. According to the Investigation Committee, the procedures will be over within days,” Levitin said.

The MS Bulgaria sank in a storm in the Kuibyshevskoye dam lake, three kilometers away from the shore, on July 10. The ship built in Czechoslovakia in 1955 titled to the right and sank within minutes.

There were 201 people onboard, and only 79 survived the wreck. A total of 122 people – 28 children, 72 women and 22 men – died. No one is missing.

The Russian River Register permitted the Bulgaria to carry no more than 120 people.

The Bulgaria had six rescue rafts for 120 people and two rescue boats for 36. It had compartments for one, two, three or four passengers.

The Kama River Shipping Company is the official owner of the Bulgaria. It leased the ship to Vodaflot, and the latter sub-leased the Bulgaria to Argorechflot in 2010. The ship made voyages from Kazan to Samara, Nizhny Novgorod, Bolgary and Volgograd.

Shipbuilders said that the diesel-and-electric-powered vessels of the Bulgaria type had a service life of no more than 20 years. Longer use was possible on the condition of constant maintenance and modernization.

The Bulgaria had its last full checkout at the Perm shipyard on May 24, 2007.

Some 120 passenger ships are cruising rivers in European Russia. An average period of their use is 30 years. There are three vessels of the Bulgaria type. About 14.5 million tours went on river cruises in Russia in 2010.

The operation of all ships similar with the sunken MS Bulgaria was suspended.

President Dmitry Medvedev demanded the most thorough investigation of the MS Bulgaria wreck.

“We must verify the condition of the entire river fleet, including the issue of shipping and tourism licenses, the selling of tickets and plenty of other factors, which have had a direct or indirect effect on the recent tragedy,” he told law enforcers on Friday.

“We are unable to replace all the river and sea vessels within a year or several years. These are expensive assets. We must admit that not a single river vessel has been built within the past 20 years,” Medvedev said.

“There must be no scapegoating in the investigation of the shipwreck. Everyone involved must be held responsible so that officials who permit a vessel to go on voyage mind their liabilities,” the president said. “There may be both disciplinary and criminal penalties, and the criminal penalty must be rather serious. Thus, we need a very thorough investigation based on a complex forensic analysis.”

“We need not only to expose the causes of the shipwreck, which are more or less known, but also to prevent similar accidents in the future. This is the duty of the government and law enforcers,” he said.

Criminal charges were brought against the captains of the Arbat and Dunaisky 66 cargo ships on July 12 for not giving assistance to passengers of the wrecked MS Bulgaria, Investigation Committee spokesman Vladimir Markin said.

The offense is punished with either a large fine or an imprisonment of up to two years.

“Two cargo ships sailed past people in distress but no assistance was given,” eyewitnesses said. Transport Minister Igor Levitin promised that the punishment would be severe.

Arabella Captain Roman Lizalin told Rossiya 24 channel that the barge crew, which did not stop for picking up passengers and sailors from the MS Bulgaria, behaved correctly. The Arabella was the ship that picked up survivors from the Bulgaria.

“The barge was not maneuverable enough to rescue people from the river water. We asked the barge crew to move away so that they did not impede the rescue effort. We rapidly picked up people from the water while the barge crew was still preparing to send boats for their rescue,” he said.

“We did not know the scale of the disaster at first,” Lizalin said. “We realized how large it was when we approached a rescue raft from where the May Day signal was sent. The Bulgaria first mate told us,” he said.

Argorechtur General Director Svetlana Inyakina and senior expert of the Kama branch of the Russian River Register Yakov Ivashov were detained in the investigation of the MS Bulgaria wreck, Markin said. Both were charged with rendering unsafe services, which caused more than two deaths through negligence (paragraph 3, article 238 of the Russian Criminal Code). The possible penalty may reach ten years in prison.

Investigative procedures took place at the Kama branch of the Russian River Register, the Kama River Shipping Company, the Volga-Kama Shipping Company based in Perm, the Volga river transport supervisory department in the Nizhny Novgorod region and the Kazan river port.

 

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