Relatives pray for news from Russian shipwreck

In a hotel room in southern Russia, Lydia and Pavel Izvozchikov are praying their son will be found alive somewhere in the shallow waters at the mouth of the Black Sea.Their 28-year-old son Vladimir is still missing after a storm at the weekend sank and crippled more than a dozen ships and disgorged an oil slick that has killed thousands of birds.

Russian Prime Minister Viktor Zubkov flew to the region on Tuesday to oversee the rescue operation. The Izvozchikov family said the authorities had told them nothing about their son, a mechanic whose cargo ship was swamped on Sunday.

“He was alive. He made it off the ship we think,” said Lydia Izvozchikova, a small woman whose lips quivered with emotion as she spoke outside her hotel. “If all we have is hope, then that’s what we are living on.”

The family was preparing to travel to neighboring Ukraine to scour hospitals in case their son had turned up there.

“We are living on rumors right now. First we heard 46 were rescued, then 60. We haven’t seen the list. Why won’t they come and show us a list?” said Lydia’s husband Pavel.

Vladimir Izvozchikov served aboard the Nakhichevan, a river ship based in their home city of Rostov-on-Don that was carrying a load of dry sulfur.

In a statement on Wednesday, Ukraine’s transport ministry said rescuers had found the body of a man, which it suspects came from the Nakhichevan, but did not release his name. Four other seamen are still unaccounted for.

MEAL VOUCHERS

The last that Izvozchikov’s family heard of him was on Sunday morning, when he sent a text message to his pregnant wife Marina to tell her his ship had found a quiet place to ride out the coming storm. He told his parents not to worry.

The Izvozchikovs heard second-hand rumors from one of the rescued sailors on Tuesday that Vladimir was last seen on Sunday on the deck, his life jacket and rescue suit done up, as the command was given to abandon the Nakhichevan.

The city administration in Temryuk, near the spot where the ships went down, has put the Izvozchikovs and another family of a missing sailor in a local hotel.

It has given them meal vouchers and promised a document that will let them look for their son across the Kerch strait in Ukraine. But that is where assistance has ended.

“No federal agency, not the Ministry of Emergency Situations, not even the firm he was working for — none of them has even called us to say if he’s missing. Maybe he’s out there floating in one of the lagoons, freezing,” Pavel said.

Prime Minister Zubkov said the weekend’s events were the worst mass shipwreck in modern Russian history. He ordered a safety review after reports some of the ships ignored a storm warning and put to sea, and that some were not seaworthy.

“They had been getting ready for the storm for two days. Two days! Then the ship sent an SOS at 12 o’clock … Why couldn’t they save them if they were only three kilometers off the shore?” said the missing man’s father.

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