Volga River Disaster: Update 1

Volga River Disaster: Update 1


The passenger vessel Bulgaria was reported sank on the Volga River near the small village of Sukeyevo in the Tatarstan region of Russia.   The Bulgaria, a Soviet era double-decker passenger ship built in the 1950s,  was headed to Kazan with 135 passengers and 47 crew on a 2 day pleasure cruise.

The Bulgaria was mid-river when it ran into difficulties before sinking in a few minutes.    Passengers and crew were forced into the river with the nearest shoreline 2 miles away.  Some passengers were able to reach the shore on makeshift rafts while others were picked up by another pleasure boat nearby.    Early reports vary on the number of survivors.  One states that 1 passenger was found drown, 2 others were injured and another 15 still missing while another list 100 passengers still missing.

The Bulgaria was built without internal watertight bulkheads which made it vulnerable to water ingress.  When a portion of the hull is breached, the vessel would quickly fill with water and sink.   The concept of watertight compartments was first conceived in 1789 and is standard on modern vessels.   Why was the Bulgaria allowed to continue operation without this safety standard?   This question and many more will be asked when the Russian authorities investigate the incident.

Update 1:

The original list of persons on board the Bulgaria did not include 26 additional people.   This brings the total people on board at 208.   This may have made the vessel overloaded with passengers as it was certified to carry only up to 120 passengers.  One report states the Bulgaria did not have proper papers and license to allow it to carry passengers.  However, the vessel was last inspected on June 15, 2011.

The Bulgaria was operating with one engine at the time of the sinking.   The vessel had suffered engine problems at the beginning of the voyage.  Reports state the vessel’s sewage tanks was overfull which cause it to list to port.  The weather conditions were bad with a heavy rain and there were small choppy waves.   However, it is believed that weather did not play a factor in the cause of the sinking.

Reports state that 54 bodies have been recovered; mostly children.  As many as 50 children were  in an inside hall for an entertainment program when the vessel went down.   Many were trapped there and drown.   Some 36 children were listed on the manifest with the same birth date.

Reports state the vessel sank within 3 minutes.   Passengers heard an announcement on the loudspeakers at the last second and had no time to save themselves.   Only 2 lifeboats were launched.   Many suvivors stated they were in the cold waters of the Volga for 90 minutes before being rescued by other ships.   Survivors also stated that they were quickly covered by fuel oil after the vessel sank.

The Bulgaria was making a sharp turn right before the vessel sank.  Some have theorized that some portholes were underwater which allowed water ingress.   However, there has been no witness accounts stating the vessel listed over or capsized before sinking.    The vessel now rests 18 meters below the surface.

More infomation on the vessel:

Built in 1955 in Czechoslovakia
Length: 78 meters
Width 12.2 meters
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