A terrible catastrophe occurred when the Bulgaria, a cruise ship on the Volga River with 208 people aboard, tipped starboard and sank. The cause is still under investigation but at least 100 are dead and 29 remain unaccounted for. The sinking happened very quickly leaving passengers and crew little time to get off before it sank. A nearby ship, the Arabella, came to the rescue of the 79 people that survived.
The Russian media is all abuzz about the sinking and the terrible loss of life. Accusations are spreading fast about how old the ship was (built in 1955), how the owner was greedy and that Bulgaria’s commander had to pay for uniforms, keys, and meals. The owner, Svetlana Inyakina, has been arrested and faces up to ten years in jail. However the Bulgaria is not the only ship that was built in the last century. News reports indicates that nearly all of the cruise ships in Russia are between forty to fifty years old. Bulgaria was perhaps the oldest at sixty years.
Meanwhile the Russian government has some explaining to do. Apparently most river cruise ships are in private hands and the government was minimally involved. This may explain the swift arrest of the owner in order to divert attention away from government oversight. Like Titanic, it is likely to lead to sweeping changes on the Volga and for the entire Russian river cruise ships. Some of them will be needed and welcome changes. I suspect Putin will use it as an excuse to put the ship owners under direct government control. Expect to see some public trials of ship owners in the near future.
Spero News, Russia: Poor Maintenance Caused The Titanic On The Volga, 13 Jul 2011