56 drown as trawler ‘sinks in 15 minutes’

A Russian fishing trawler has sunk in just 15 minutes in the icy waters off Russia’s Far East coast, killing at least 56 of its 132 crew members.

The massive trawler Dalny Vostok sank about 4am local time in the Sea of Okhotsk off the Kamchatka Peninsula. It did not send a distress signal prior to the sinking.

Emergency services in Kamchatka, citing the head of the rescue operation, said 63 crew members were rescued, but the fate of the remaining 13 crew members was unknown.

No cause for the sinking was immediately given, but investigators said the ship sank in just 15 minutes and may have collided with drifting ice. The investigative committee said it is considering all theories, but it is likely the trawler hit “an object” floating in the sea.

About 26 fishing boats and 1,300 fishermen and emergency workers were helping in the rescue operation, and scouring the water for survivors and bodies even after darkness fell, emergency situations minister Vladimir Puchkov said.

Interfax news agency quoted Vasily Sokolov, of the Russian Fisheries Agency, denying reports an overload may have caused the boat to sink. Of 132 crew members, 78 were from Russia, 42 from Myanmar and the rest from Latvia, Ukraine and Vanuatu.

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