Fixing of wide metal slings under sunken Bulgaria ship starts.

20/7 Tass 55

MOSCOW, July 20 (Itar-Tass) — The operation to fix the first two of the four wide metal slings under the hull of the sunken Bulgaria boat to lift her to the surface has been launched, spokesman for the operational headquarters for lifting the vessel Timur Khikmatov told Itar-Tass.

“At 08:00, Moscow time, the operation to fix the two slings under the stern of the Bulgaria ship was started,” he said. “Preparations for fixing two more slings under the fore body continue.”

According Khikmatov, this job can take from two hours to a day. After that the vessel will be raised to the level of the upper deck and the pumping out of water will be started.

The Bulgaria ship that was sailing on a pleasure cruise route from Bolgary to Kazan, sank in the Kuibyshev Reservoir of the Volga River on July 10 in storm conditions, 3 kilometres from the shore at a depth of 22 metres. The ship listed to starboard and in several minutes went under. There were 208 people aboard, some of the passengers were not registered. A total of 79 people were rescued. According to the latest information, the death toll of the accident is 114, and 15 are regarded as missing.

The Russian River Register permitted the Bulgaria to carry no more than 120 people.

The Bulgaria had six rescue rafts for 120 people and two rescue boats for 36. It had compartments for one, two, three or four passengers.

The Kama River Shipping Company is the official owner of the Bulgaria. It leased the ship to Vodaflot, and the latter sub-leased the Bulgaria to Argorechflot in 2010. The ship made voyages from Kazan to Samara, Nizhny Novgorod, Bolgary and Volgograd. Shipbuilders said that the diesel-and-electric-powered vessels of the Bulgaria type had a service life of no more than 20 years. Longer use was possible on the condition of constant maintenance and modernization. The Bulgaria had its last full checkout at the Perm shipyard on May 24, 2007. Some 120 passenger ships are cruising rivers in European Russia. An average period of their use is 30 years. There are three vessels of the Bulgaria type. About 14.5 million tours went on river cruises in Russia in 2010.

On Tuesday, about 400 tonnes of soil were been removed alongside the Bulgaria ship. “The dredging operation along the left side of the Bulgaria has been completed, a total of about 400 tonnes of soil have been removed,” Khikmatov said, explaining that the work was done to simplify the process of levelling the ship.

The spokesman stressed that the operation was conducted by the KPL-16 crane throughout the night in bad weather conditions.

He noted the vessel’s straightening was to be completed by 12:00, Moscow time. After that specialists will begin an operation to put under the Bulgaria ship 15-metre metal slings on which two floating cranes will raise the vessel.

On Monday, RF Deputy Transport Minister Viktor Olersky said that one of the cords had broken on Sunday when the Bulgaria was levelled on the bottom.

Two enormous cranes with cables attached to them are at the site of the accident on the Volga River. Once they are able to right the vessel they will start to raise. “It is a long process. It will take not one hour,” Olersky, who is overseeing the operation, said on Saturday. “The whole lifting operation consists of four phases,” he noted. “Phase one is to fix the hoists; phase two, to put the sunken vessel on the even keel; phase three, to raise the vessel and finally phase four, to transport the ship to the dock,” Olersky explained.

Transport Minister Igor Levitin said it would take several hours to complete work with the Bulgaria once the vessel was transported to the dockage facility.

Meanwhile, psychologists continued to help the families of those who died as a result of the tragic accident. Psychological and psychiatric support has already been rendered to more than 1,000 people – the injured, their relatives and family members of those who are still missing.

Levitin and Emergencies Minister Sergei Shoigu presented medals to Russian Emergency Situations Ministry rescuers and crewmembers of the Arabella cruise ship for rescuing passengers of the MS Bulgaria.

Seventy-seven specialists, among them 49 divers, are preparing to lift the wrecked Bulgaria. In all, the works involve 834 people.

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