MOSCOW — A Russian trawler sank in just 15 minutes in icy waters off Russia’s Far Eastern coast early Thursday, killing at least 54 crew members, rescue workers said.
The massive trawler Dalny Vostok, with an international crew of 132, sank at about 4 a.m. local time (1800 GMT on Wednesday) in the Sea of Okhotsk off the Kamchatka Peninsula. It did not send distress signals prior to the sinking, the Interfax news agency said.
Emergency services in Kamchatka, citing the head of the rescue operation, said 63 crew members were rescued and the fate of the remaining 15 was unknown.
The crews of 26 fishing boats were helping the rescue operation that was scouring the water for survivors and bodies even after darkness fell in the region, Emergency Situations Minister Vladimir Puchkov said.
The fishing boats recovered 54 bodies. Some 1,300 people were involved in the rescue operation, emergency services said.
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 in a statement that it is considering all theories but it is likely that the trawler hit “an object” floating in the sea.
The Russian Emergencies Ministry sent an Mi-8 helicopter with rescuers and doctors aboard to deliver medical assistance and transport rescued crew members to hospitals in the city of Magadan, the ministry said on its website. It also set up a telephone hotline for families of the crew.
Oleg Kozhemyako, acting governor of the Sakhalin region, told Russian television that rescuers spotted two life rafts, but had not yet reached them to check if anybody was on board.
Among the 132 crew members, 78 were from Russia, 42 from Myanmar and the rest from Latvia, Ukraine and Vanuatu.