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Search of Bulgaria wreck ends

Divers have finished exploring the wreck of the cruise ship Bulgaria, which sank on Sunday in the Volga River, killing at least 113. The vessel may be lifted from the riverbed as soon as the coming weekend.

The five-day search resulted in the recovery of 113 bodies. The majority of them – 65 people – were women, while 28 were children and teenagers. All the victims found have been identified.

Sixteen people, including six children, are still missing. A sweep of the riverbed and coasts down the stream is still underway.

Underwater engineers have begun sealing the windows of the Bulgaria on Friday in preparation for the raising of the sunken ship. They are also fixing cables, which will be used to pull the vessel from underwater.

Some of the equipment needed for the salvage operation, such as water pumps and pontoon platforms, is already on the site, while additional tools will arrive later on Friday. The two floating cranes, which will do the actual lifting, are expected by mid-Saturday.

The cranes are moving ahead of schedule, which means the operation may start before next week, as was initially planned.

The diesel-electric vessel Bulgaria sank on July 10 in the Russian republic of Tatarstan, as it was navigating the Volga River. It had 208 people onboard, 79 of whom survived the tragedy.

An investigation is underway, and it covers not only this particular disaster, but the whole river transport system of Russia. Everything must be checked, Dmitry Medvedev told law enforcement officials on Friday, “passenger transport licensing, sale of tickets, tourism business control and a number of other circumstances related to the tragedy, directly or indirectly.”

Two people have been arrested over alleged negligence and corruption, because the ship was reportedly in poor technical condition and did not comply with safety regulations.

Also on Friday, Russia’s Investigative Committee ordered the detention of the captains of two ships that failed to provide help to the sinking ship. They have not been charged with any crime so far. There are conflicting reports as to why they left the wreck site and whether they should be blamed for it.

The committee also said more arrests may follow as it probes officials who failed to act in line with their duty and thus contributed to the tragedy.