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PHOTO: Russia begins raising sunken Volga boat

23 july 2011, 14:39
Russian rescuers Friday lifted a cruise ship off the bottom of the Volga almost two weeks after it sank with the loss of over 100 lives, the first step towards raising the vessel to the surface, AFP reports. The first stage in raising the vessel to the surface.

While still under water the 78-metre (255-foot) riverboat Bulgaria will be hermetically sealed and pumped dry, then raised to the surface and hauled to dry dock, said spokesman for the transport ministry Timur Khikmatov.

"It could take several hours," Khikmatov told AFP. The boat's stern is now six metres above the bottom of the river.

An elaborate operation involving dozens of divers and two huge cranes in the central region of Tatarstan began on Saturday.

The operation has taken much longer than expected as crews have been hit by a number of setbacks, including low visibility and a snapped steel cord.

Earlier this week the crews managed to steady the boat, which was lying on its right side and getting sucked into the riverbed silt.

The overcrowded 56-year-old boat went down on July 10 in a storm in the country's worst boat disaster in recent memory, which the Kremlin blamed on safety breaches.

Authorities have so far found the bodies of 114 people, including 28 children.

Moscow-based investigators said in a statement Friday that eight people were now listed as missing, down from 15 considered missing earlier.

Seventy nine people have been rescued.

The investigation brought official charges against Svetlana Inyakina, general director of ArgoRechTur, a company that leased the doomed boat, and an official with the Russian River Register, a state body in charge of vessel classification.

The charges carry a penalty of up to 10 years in jail, said the Investigative Committee.

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