A Russian fishing trawler sunk early Thursday morning in the Sea of Okhotsk in the Russian Far East, about 150 miles south of the city of Magadan. The Russian ship, which was carrying an international crew of 132, has reportedly already killed 56 people.
On the ship were 78 Russians, and 54 citizens of other counties – 42 from Burma, five from Vanuatu, four from Ukraine, and three from Latvia. The Associated Press has reported that 63 crew members have been confirmed rescued, and they are currently unsure about 15 other people. The trawler began sinking at around 4 AM local time and the area of the accident of the Kamchatka Peninsula quickly filled with over 26 fishing boats to begin rescuing people. Roughly 1,300 people have been involved with the saving of lives at some capacity.
This is a brutally tough place to be on a ship in general, and a particularly brutal place to carry out a search and rescue mission. The temperature of the air is very cold and the water is near freezing. One spokesman indicated that survival in waters this cold was possible for only 20 minutes.
Although currently unsure, investigators suspect the cause is from a collision with drifting ice in the water. They do know that water somehow flooded the engine compartment and the trawler sank quickly – within minutes. The outer damage of the trawler is near to the engine room, leading investigators to believe there was significant impact, which lead to a quick sinking. Curiously, the ship did not send distress calls prior to sinking.
While Vasily Sokolov told reporters that the ship was not overloaded, he also admitted that they had brought a heavy dragnet on board prior to the accident. Some people also speculate that lifting the trawl was what could have caused the ship to sink. The dragnet was suspected to have been 100 tons, which, without enough fuel in the ship tank, could cause for a serious imbalance.
However, until this point these ideas are simply theories and most of the efforts are being directed at finding the crewmembers.