Volga boat tragedy: Russia mourns Bulgaria victims

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Media captionA large crowd gathered at the port of Kazan

Russia is observing a day of mourning after as many as 110 people died when an overloaded boat sank on the Volga.

Some 50 children were said to be among those who drowned when the Bulgaria, a tourist boat, sank on Sunday.

Around 80 people were rescued on the wide section of the river in Tatarstan, 750km (450 miles) east of Moscow. Some 50 bodies have been found.

Officials say the boat's capacity was 120 passengers and crew, but it had been carrying 208 people.

President Dmitry Medvedev has ordered a check of all transport services, saying the old double-decker boat was in a poor condition.

Trapped bodies

A 50-strong team of divers had been scouring the sunken boat in the murky river for survivors, and seen about 50 bodies - most of them children - trapped in a recreation room on the sunken vessel, emergency ministry officials told Reuters.

Image caption The Bulgaria, which was overcrowded and listing even before it set sail, sank within minutes during a storm, officials said

A survivor said the children had gathered in the play area on the second deck just before the boat went down.

Officials say there is little hope of finding any more survivors.

The divers have been tapping on the hull in the hope of getting a response fom a trapped survivor, but have received no response. They have seen many dead bodies trapped in the boat's holds and the restaurants.

More than 40 bodies have been recovered so far.

The Bulgaria was caught in a storm on Sunday at about 1400 (1000 GMT) while sailing from Bolgary to the regional capital, Kazan, and sank within minutes at one of the widest points of the river.

The bad weather, mechanical failure on the 55-year-old vessel and overcrowding have all been cited as possible reasons why the boat sank.

The Russian authorities have launched a criminal investigation, amid suspicions that negligence contributed to the tragedy.

Even before the boat had set sail on Sunday, one of its two engines had malfunctioned and the vessel had been listing, investigators say.

The 80m (260ft) boat sank several kilometres from the shore near the village of Sukeyevo, about 80km (45 miles) south of Kazan.

The Volga, Europe's largest river, is popular with cruise boats at this time of the year.

Are you in the vicinity of the sinking? Do you know anyone who may have been on the boat? Send us your comments and experiences.

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