Russian lake tragedy, 14 children dead

Exclusive to The Middle East Online

Edited by Nelly Tawil

Despite repeated warnings advising against going out on the water on Saturday, 14 children perished during a storm when their boats capsized on Lake Syamozero in northern Russia’s Karelia region. There were close to 51 passengers on board – 47 children and four adult instructors – about 75 miles east of the border with Finland.

The accident occurred overnight near the border of Finland, according to Vladimir Markin, a spokesman for Russia’s investigative committee. Most of the 37 survivors reached an island in the lake while others were found in a village, some had washed ashore.

Local experts have come forward claiming that the lake could be extremely dangerous to navigate in strong winds, and even experienced local fishermen had steered clear from the lake during the weekend as the Atlantic cyclone approached.

Mr.Markin stated that at least three people have been detained on suspicions of violating safety rules, including two instructors and a deputy director of a hotel where the group was staying and which reportedly organised the boating trip.

According to Pavel Astakhov, children’s rights ombudsman, the children who died in the incident “apparently had no life vests” and children with vests “managed to survive.” The boating party only consisted of two boats and one raft.

“Now we are trying to figure out who gave permission for the journey, if all were provided with life vests,” Astakhov said.

Vladimir Kucherenko, the director of a local tourist company, said that most children had apparently died from long exposure to cold water, as water temperatures in the lake was about 46-50 degrees Fahrenheit. He said strong winds might have driven boats across the lake, making it hard for the children to get to the shore.

The children on the boats were attending a summer camp near the lake and were all originally from Moscow. The capital’s mayor, Sergei Sobyanin, offered condolences to the victims’ families.

“A great tragedy has occurred in Karelia,” Sobyanin tweeted.

The lake is one of the favorite holiday destinations in the area.