12/19/2011, 00.00
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Russian oil rig sinks, little hope for 39 missing

Another tragedy in Russia brings attention to infrastructure conditions and the failure to comply with safety standards. On the platform, half the passengers were unauthorised.
Moscow (AsiaNews / Agencies) - Four ships, aircraft and helicopters are engaged in the desperate search for 39 missing following the capsizing of an oil platform in the Sea of Okhotsk in the Russian Far East. The incident is likely to result in a new tragedy, leading to controversy about the conditions of Russian infrastructure and safety rules.

So far rescuers have succeeded in recovering only 14 survivors of the 67 people who were on board and 14 dead bodies. For others the hopes of surviving at sea are unlikely given the strong winds and temperatures that plummet to 17 degrees below zero.

The Kolskaya oil rig belonging to Gazflot - an exploration company of Gazprom - had been towed to 200 km off the island of Sakhalin after having been damaged by an impact with blocks of ice. During transport, however, the tower overturned, possibly because of strong winds, plunging quickly to the sea. Just before the rig capsized, the workers had been waiting with their colleagues for help, but the hole that opened up in the ice after the impact of the tower widened rapidly sucking the entire structure beneath the sea. The Russian authorities have announced the opening of an investigation: possible violations of safety rules and difficult weather conditions with waves up to 5 meters high and very strong winds may be the cause of the tragedy.

Vessels and cargo ships present in the vicinity a the time of the incident have been called on to help in rescue operations.

The accident is under the spotlight in media. According to the Kommersant newspaper, half the people on the platform was not authorized and has therefore in violation of transport regulations that provide for only a fraction of the captain and crew to be present in the transport phase.

For the Moskovsky Komsomolets, however, the Kolskaya tragedy is reminiscent of Bulgaria, the tourist boat that sank in July in the Volga River causing more than 120 deaths. "Both incidents - says the newspaper – were due to a total disregard and violation of every safety principle and the greed of the owners." (N.A.)

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