Russia abandons rig survivor search

2011-12-22 22:04

Moscow - Russia said on Thursday it has stopped active searches for 36 people missing in the Okhotsk Sea after a drilling rig sank off Sakhalin Island at the weekend, saying there was no hope of finding them alive.

"The active search is over," the transportation ministry said, adding that worsening weather conditions would put rescue vessels operating at the scene in danger.

Any "reasonable hope" of finding survivors in the icy seas in far eastern Russia was now gone, he added.

The official death toll rose to 17 on Thursday after another six bodies were pulled out of the water, according to emergencies ministry spokesperson Alexander Ivelsky.

The rig with 67 people on board capsized and sank on Sunday as it was being towed from the Kamchatka peninsula toward the island of Sakhalin. Only 14 people have been rescued.

Officials have never officially declared the missing dead until their bodies have been found.

The only foreigner on the rig, Bulgarian Zhivko Zhekov, is among the missing, according to a list of the crew posted on the website of Arktikmorneftegazrazvedka, the rig's owner based in the northern city of Murmansk.