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OMSK, August 18 (Itar-Tass) - Crewmen of a tugboat that was sailing in the opposite direction when the Polessye steamship collided with a barge on the Irtysh River were the first to start evacuating the victims from the sinking ship. Vacationers on the river banks also joined the rescue effort.
The steamship Polessye was sailing from Omsk, carrying, among others, pilgrims who were heading to one of the local convents, which is located 50 km south of Omsk on the Irtysh and frequently visited by Orthodox believers from the whole of Siberia and North Kazakhstan.
The steamship steered into the opposite side of the navigable pass and collided head-on with a barge.
The accident occurred at 13:20 local time on the 1,843rd kilometer of the River Irtysh ten kilometers from Omsk.
“The tugboat which was sailing in the opposite direction turned back and approached the wreck site. Its crew radioed a message about the tragedy to the Emergencies Ministry and started evacuating the passengers from the sinking steamship. People who were vacationing on the Irtysh banks came to rescue in their own boats,” Vladimir Koru, head of the Emergencies Ministry’s branch in the Omsk region, told Itar-Tass.
“Practically all the passengers were on board the RT tugboat by the time rescuers arrived. We will find and thank all who took part in the rescue,” Korbut went on to say.
He noted that the Polessye steamship had been examined from the inside and outside. Divers searched every centimeter of the steamship’s deck that was under water. They found no one there.
At present, a crane is keeping the Polessye steamship afloat. The barge is anchored. Slick bars have been installed at the collision place to prevent diesel fuel and machine oil of the semi-sunk ship from contaminating the water. Korbut said there were over six tonnes of diesel fuel and machine oil in the Polessye tanks, which could have cracked and given a leak after a powerful blow from the collision.
The main water intake facility that supplies water to Omsk with a population of 1.2 million people is located several kilometers down the Irtysh.
Investigators established that the accident had been caused by gross violation of navigation rules by the Polessye captain who was drunk. He was detained and may be taken into custody.
According to clarified reports, there were four crewmen and 52 passengers on the steamship at the time of the collision. Forty-nine people were hurt in the accident. Four people died immediately. Two more women died in hospital from heavy traumas.
This is not the first such accident on Russian rivers over the past several years.
On July 10, 2011, the passenger ship Bulgaria sank in Tatarstan. Of the 201 people aboard, 122 died, including 28 children. Seventy-nine people were rescued.
On March 12, 2012, two hovercraft making regular passenger trips on the Volga in the Nizhny Novgorod region hit each other tangentially. Each was carrying ten people. Six were injured.
On June 30, 2012, two pleasure boats collided on the Volga near Nizhny Novgorod. One was carrying 29 passengers and the other 40. No one was injured. The craft were damaged but stayed afloat.
On September 3, 2012, a steamship collided with a tugboat in the Rybinskoye water reservoir in the northern Vologda region. None of the 264 people aboard the steamship was injured.