The fallout from the tragic sinking of the Bulgaria pleasure boat continues.
Divers have completed their search of the boat and its compartments, finding 114 victims – including 66 women and 28 children, as well as 20 men. The bodies of 15 people are still missing, perhaps carried away by the currents of the Volga River.
Putin flew to Kazan yesterday to show his grief, berate officials and, in a bizarre Russian tradition, solemnly announce what the lives of the victims was worth.
“Our country has become used to all sorts of cataclysms and tragedies,” he told a televised meeting of the commission looking into the disaster. “This in and of itself is alarming.”
“So many victims, so many children killed,” he said. “It’s horrible that we have to pay such a high price for irresponsibility, carelessness, greed, and a gross violation of technological safety rules.”
He went on to order an “in-depth inquiry” and praise the captain of the ship that stopped to help the victims (two others passed by, and have been detained). And then the money – the federal budget will dole out one million rubles ($35,600) to help the families of the dead, 400,000 to those who were seriously and “medium” injured and 200,000 to those lightly injured. The republic’s budget will add its own funds to that, Putin said. Putin was repeating what was already announced within hours of the tragedy, which always feels very strange.
So, steps number one and two in the Dealing With Tragedy process with which Russia is so familiar are done – day of mourning, check; order investigation, check. Next up: the firings. Today, the head of Kazan’s passenger port, Rashid Safin, was fired, according to Tatar-inform, a local news agency. How about the officials who gave the boat a license without checking it out first? How about the officials who failed to honestly carry out their inspections? How about the people who allowed all those extra passengers on the boat? The firings could continue on forever, or they could stop after enough scapegoats have been found. (The head of the company that leased the boat and a river transport inspector were taken into custody Wednesday pending criminal charges.)
Not to be outdone by Putin, President Dmitry Medvedev moved from condolence giver to shouter today, saying: “Everyone involved in organizing this should bare responsibility.”
“Next time, every official, regardless of his rank, will understand that consequences for such a ship leaving a port can be not only disciplinary, but criminal,” he said during a meeting with investigators.
Will making an example of the case be enough? Prosecutor General Yury Chaika told Medvedev during the meeting that inspections for the first six months of 2011 found an astounding 31,000 violations on water transport.
The other thing announced today, less than one week after the tragedy, was that Kazan had won the right to host the 2015 World Water Sports Championship. A cool thing, sure, but maybe one that could have been announced at a later date, or at least with some acknowledgement of the unbelievable tragedy the city has just had to live through. But then, we’re already on to step four: move on and wait for the next tragedy to strike.