Russian trawler sinks quickly in icy water, at least 56 dead

In this undated photo provided by Russian Emergency Situations Ministry, a Russian trawler, the same type as Dalny Vostok, is seen in an undisclosed location. The Russian freezer trawler Dalny Vostok with an international crew of 132 sank Thursday morning, April 2, 2015, in the Sea of Okhotsk off of the Kamchatka Peninsula, rescue workers said. (AP Photo/Russian Emergency Situations Ministry Press Service)

MOSCOW (AP) — A Russian fishing trawler sank in just 15 minutes early Thursday in the icy waters off Russia’s Far East coast, killing at least 56 of its 132 crew members, rescue workers said.

The massive trawler Dalny Vostok sank about 4 a.m. local time (1800 GMT Wednesday; 1 p.m. EDT Wednesday) in the Sea of Okhotsk off the Kamchatka Peninsula. It did not send a distress signal prior to the sinking.

Emergency services in Kamchatka, citing the head of the rescue operation, said 63 crew members were rescued but the fate of the remaining 13 crew members was unknown.

No cause for the sinking was immediately given, but investigators said the ship sank in just 15 minutes and may have collided with drifting ice. The Investigative Committee said it is considering all theories but it is likely that the trawler hit “an object” floating in the sea.

About 26 fishing boats and 1,300 fishermen and emergency workers were helping in the rescue operation, and scouring the water for survivors and bodies even after darkness fell, Emergency Situations Minister Vladimir Puchkov said.

The fishing boats have recovered 56 bodies so far. The Interfax news agency quoted a local emergency representative as saying two of the bodies were found Thursday evening — one in a lifeboat 105 kilometers (65 miles) away and another in the water nearby.

Interfax also quoted Vasily Sokolov, deputy chief of the Russian Fisheries Agency, denying reports that an overload may have caused the boat to sink.

The Russian Emergencies Ministry sent a Mi-8 helicopter with rescue workers and doctors to deliver medical help and transport crew members to hospitals in the city of Magadan. It also set up a telephone hotline for the families of the crew.

Among the 132 crew members, 78 were from Russia, 42 from Myanmar and the rest were from Latvia, Ukraine and Vanuatu.