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Four dead after Russian oil rig capsizes in stormy seas


File photo of an oil rig that capsized while being towed in stormy seas off eastern Russia
File photo of an oil rig that capsized while being towed in stormy seas off eastern Russia

Alexandra Pope, staff writer

December 18, 2011 — Four people are dead and dozens missing after an oil rig capsized in the stormy Sea of Okhotsk in eastern Russia Sunday.

The rig encountered stormy weather in the Sea of Okhotsk
The rig encountered stormy weather in the Sea of Okhotsk

The rig was being towed with 67 crew members aboard about 200 kilometres off the coast of Sakhalin Island when it encountered stormy conditions.

The Russian Emergencies Ministry said the rig began to sink after a large wave smashed through portholes in the crew's dining room.

A five-metre high wave washed away the rig's lifeboats, leaving the crew with no escape. It sank several hours later.

14 people were pulled alive from the frigid water, but freezing temperatures, harsh winds and a strong blizzard hampered efforts to find the 49 others.

Helicopters and airplanes patrolled the area Sunday, but called off their search just after sunset. Officials say that two boats will continue the search overnight, and the air search will resume Monday morning.

The surface temperature of the Sea of Okhotsk at this time of year ranges from 4C to -2C. Hypothermia sets in quickly in water 8C and colder.

Dmitry Dmitriyenko, governor of the Murmansk region in Russia's northwest -- where 33 of the men come from -- urged friends and families to stay hopeful, but admitted the likelihood of the men surviving in the frigid water is slim.

Officials are investigating the incident, hoping to find the exact cause.

With files from the Associated Press

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