17 fishermen were missing on Monday and feared dead after a Russian trawler capsized in a storm and sank in the freezing waters of the Barents Sea.
Officials said two people had been rescued from a passing ship, but hopes quickly faded that more survivors could be found over Arctic waters during a blizzard.
At a government meeting on Monday, Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin expressed condolences to the families of the victims and instructed officials to provide them with the necessary assistance.
“A tragedy occurred in the Barents Sea today,” said Mishustin. “People died,” he added without giving any further details.
Officials said a search and rescue operation was underway but that bad weather conditions had complicated the task.
“There is a strong snow storm, the waves are up to four meters high and the temperatures are around 20 to 25 degrees Celsius below zero,” said Alexei Barinov, spokesman for the emergency ministry in northwest Murmansk, to AFP.
“We hope for a New Year’s miracle,” he added.
However, a source familiar with the details of the search effort told AFP that there was little hope of finding survivors.
“A person cannot last more than 15 minutes under these conditions,” the source said.
The privately owned boat, called Onega, sank around 6:20 a.m. (03:30 GMT) near the Novaya Zemlya archipelago in the Barents Sea, said Ruslan Nazarov, head of the Murmansk department at the Emergency Ministry.
Ten minutes later, a passing ship rescued two fishermen, Nazarov told reporters.
Officials believe the Russian-flagged ship, in service since 1979, capsized after ice formation caused it to overturn.
The disaster occurred when the crew pulled out a net with the catch, said Rosmorrechflot maritime and river transport agency spokesman Alexei Kravchenko.
“The ship lost its balance and capsized immediately,” he told AFP.
According to official information, three ships and one Il-38 patrol plane were sent to the scene.
Kravchenko said not a single body had been found, although the two survivors saw a crew member die in front of them.
Maritime accidents are quite common in Russia.
In April 2015, a Russian trawler sank in the Sea of Okhotsk off Kamchatka. Of the 132 people on board the Dalniy Vostok, only 63 were saved.
In December 2011 a drilling rig capsized and sank in a storm off Sakhalin Island. More than 50 people were killed or missing.
(Except for the headline, this story was not edited by GossipMantri staff and published from a syndicated feed.)