Russia mourns boat tragedy victims, toll could reach 130

Moscow: With flags flying half mast, black ribbons on the government buildings and church prayers across the country, Russia on Tuesday mourned the death of as many as 130 people who were killed when an overloaded vintage boat sank on the Volga river in the republic of Tatarstan.

After round-the-clock rescue efforts, bodies of 82 people from the Bulgaria pleasure boat have been lifted on the surface by the divers, while bodies of up to 40 children remain trapped in the Children`s Room on the lower deck, local TV channels reported.

According to state-run Rossiya 24 channel, last night a special diving module capable of cutting metal underwater was airlifted to Tatarstan to gain access to the room where up to 40 children were assembled before the ill-fated boat turned over and sank within minutes.

Bodies of five children have already been brought to the surface.

In addition to the wreck site, three kilometres from the shore, the search operation includes the banks and islands in an area extending some 40 km downstream.

"The works must continue," Emergencies Minister Sergey Shoigu ordered in a televised meeting of the Crisis Centre.

The total number of people onboard the vessel is now estimated at 205 passengers and crew members, 79 of them were saved by a passing ship the "Arabella".

On Saturday, the Ministry of Emergencies will begin the operation to lift the whole sunken vessel to the surface as some bodies could still remain trapped.