Seventeen sailors were reported missing on December 28 after a trawler sank in the Russian Arctic, with almost zero chances of survival due to the extreme weather conditions in the area.
According to the Russian Ministry of Emergency Situations, the trawler Onega, based in Murmansk, a major port in the Russian Arctic, sent out distress signals in the early hours of the morning before sinking off the Novaya Zemlya archipelago, in the Barents Sea, where it was fishing in the midst of a storm. “The crew is made up of 19 people. Two people were saved, ”added the ministry, quoted by the TASS news agency.
Between storms, strong winds and temperatures oscillating between -30 ° C and -20 ° C in the shipwreck area, the chances of survival of the crew who fell overboard are very low. These difficult conditions make it impossible to use aviation for rescue operations, reducing the chances of the castaways.
Little chance of survival
A ship is currently carrying out search operations and three others were underway at the beginning of the afternoon, according to the authorities, who specify that the cause of the sinking is “the icing” of the boat. “There is hardly any chance to resist in such conditions, even in combination”, noted a source questioned about the fate of the castaways by the Interfax agency.
A person “cannot survive more than 15 minutes in such conditions,” another source told AFP, even though no body has been recovered yet.
Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Michoustine offered his condolences to the families of the sailors, and ordered the government to give them the necessary support, citing a “tragedy” and confirming that “people have died”.
The ice covered ship sank instantly
According to this source, the two rescued sailors suffer from frostbite but their lives are not in danger. “According to initial information, there are no survivors, except for the two rescued sailors. The ice-covered ship sank instantly in a storm, leaving almost no chance of survival in the icy water, ”another source confirmed to TASS.
Another source, quoted by Interfax, specifies that the sailors were in special suits but had not had time to grab their survival equipment because the boat sank very quickly, in the middle of a storm “when the crew raised the net with the catch ”. “People were literally swept from the deck of the ship into the sea,” the source said.
TheOnega is owned by the Kalinin fishing company, which describes itself as “one of the main exporters of Russian fishery products”, on its website.
In January 2018, a Russian trawler with 21 people on board sank in the Sea of Japan, without any survivors being found after five days of search operations in freezing temperatures and high winds. In April 2015, the sinking of a Russian freezer trawler in the same region killed at least 56 people.
In the Barents Sea, 14 Russian officers were killed in July 2019 when their submarine burned down. A drama whose circumstances had not been revealed by the authorities in the name of “state secrecy”.