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Soviets Raise Known Death Toll in Ship Collision to 257

September 10, 1986

MOSCOW (AP) _ Divers cut into the hull of the sunken passenger ship Admiral Nakhimov, searching for more victims in the Black Sea disaster in which 257 people are now known to have died, the official Tass news agency said.

In a report Tuesday, Tass said divers had cut into the Admiral Nakhimov’s port hull and would use blowtorches and explosives to open doors on the lower decks in the search for more bodies.

Tass said rescue operations as of Tuesday had pulled 257 bodies from the water since the Aug. 31 collision between the freighter Pyotr Vasyev and the Admiral Nakhimov, which sank in less than 10 minutes.

Last week a Soviet official said there were 116 confirmed dead and 282 mission. With the revised count, 141 people were still missing and presumed dead.

Official reports say 836 people were saved from the 1,234 passengers and crew aboard the Admiral Nakhimov. No one was hurt aboard the freighter.

No survivors have been reported found since the day after the accident, which has been blamed in official press accounts on negligence and violation of navigational rules by both captains.

Tass said witness accounts indicated most of the dead were on the enclosed promenade deck, which divers reached by cutting through the hull.

″Everything has been inspected in the promenade deck,″ Tass said, without saying how many bodies were found there.

″They are moving gradually toward the lower decks. Use will be made of explosions and electro-oxygen cutting (torches) to open the doors there.″

The agency said many of the doors are blocked by debris and that working ″in the darkness and at such a depth poses exceptional difficulties and hazards for the divers. The emotional stress on them is unprecedented.″

The Admiral Nakhimov is reported to be resting on its gashed starboard side in almost 150 feet of water.

Ships have been hunting for survivors and cleaning up the thick black oil that leaked from the Admiral Nakhimov as it sank. Tass said the search for survivors covered 4,000 square miles on the surface of the Black Sea.

The agency said experts are trying to decide how best to raise the 61-year- old, 17,053-ton cruise ship - by cutting it into sections and lifting it on pontoons, or using huge cranes.

Update hourly