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Rescuers find in Sea of Japan supposedly life raft from missing vessel

The weather in the area is improving

VLADIVOSTOK, January 27. /TASS/. A search plane found in the search area of the missing Vostok vessel in the Sea of Japan an object, similar to a life raft, the search operation’s control center in Vladivostok told TASS on Saturday.

"I plane has found an object, which looks like a life raft, and now vessels Kunashir, and Spasatel Zaborshchikov are on the way to the area to check the object," the center’s representative said. "Helicopters are returning home to be replaced by others."

The weather in the area is improving, the representative added.

Head of the DV-flot Company, owing the missing Vostok vessel, Stanislav Malchevsky told TASS he had been informed about the object in the sea. "The rescue vessels are going there already; it will take them about three hours to get there, and then we may learn what it is," he said.

The total of 108 people are involved in the search operation, as well as two aircraft (two Beriev Be-200 and one Antonov An-26), two Mil Mi-8 helicopters and two vessels.

Radio contact with the Vostok fishing boat (home port of Nevelsk, Sakhalin), with 20 crew members aboard, was lost on Thursday after its emergency radio buoy had gone off some 200 kilometers south of Cape Gamov.

An area of 7,286 square kilometers has been surveyed by rescuers to yield only an emergency radio buoy, a half-sunken barrel, some equipment, two lifejackets, two life buoys and waste, with no traces of the vessel or the crew.

A criminal case was initiated on charges of safety rules violations that caused deaths of two or more people.