MOSCOW, December 2. /TASS/. The head of the Russian Emergencies Ministry’s Main Directorate for the Transbaikal Region, Nikolai Basov, has unveiled details of a unique operation to rescue passengers from a commuter bus that had skidded off a bridge into a frozen river. His video account was circulated by the ministry’s press service on Monday.
"The passengers found themselves stuck in the passenger compartment since the body of the bus had been damaged. The rescuers had to unblock them within as short time as possible under low temperatures — up to minus 20 degrees Celsius," he said.
"A slightest delay could result in their hypothermia and worsen the condition of the people. In the operation, the rescuers used the available hydraulic tools to raise the hull of the bus. They cut off the roof and got under the bus, carrying out the injured passengers and handing them over to medics. The operation took more than 2.5 hours. The promptness of the rescuers saved 21 lives," Basov reported.
He noted that the rescue operation had been complicated by the cracking ice. It was impossible to use hardware and technical equipment, Basov emphasized.
On Sunday, a commuter bus en route from Sretensk to Chita in the Transbaikal Region skidded off a bridge to fall down into a frozen river. The accident occurred some 60 kilometers off the city of Sretensk and some 320 kilometers east of Chita. There were 44 people in the bus. Nineteen people were killed, while 22 others were injured. A probe conducted by the Russian Investigative Committee is underway.
Preliminary reports say the driver lost control of the bus because a tire had blown out.