Fifteen drown in Macedonian boat sinking

A sightseeing boat carrying dozens of Bulgarian tourists sank today in a lake on Macedonia’s western border, and at least 15 people drowned, police said.

The boat, called the Ilinden, sank rapidly into Lake Ohrid, police spokesman Ivo Kotevski said. Rescuers pulled 53 survivors from the water, including four who were unresponsive and were taken to hospital in the town of Ohrid, he said.

At least 15 bodies have been recovered from the lake – the deepest in the Balkans, located along the mountainous border between Macedonia and Albania.

“A police diving team is on the scene, and we fear more people have drowned,” Mr Kotevski said, adding that it was still unclear exactly how many were on board.

Witnesses said the boat was about 200 yards from shore when it split in two and sank unexpectedly, according to Macedonia’s private A1 television.

The broadcaster said the boat was carrying 50 tourists from Bulgaria among others, and had been travelling from Ohrid, on the lake’s eastern shore, to the medieval Eastern Orthodox monastery complex Sveti Naum about 18 miles to the south near the Albanian border.

Lake Ohrid itself has been a Unesco world heritage site since 1979.

Mr Kotevski said it is not clear yet why the boat sank.

“This is the worst accident that has ever happened on Lake Ohrid,” local police spokesman Stefan Dimoski said.

Macedonian President Gjorgje Ivanov and four Cabinet ministers were travelling to the scene.

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