Moscow: With flags flying half mast, black ribbons on the government buildings and church prayers across the country, Russia on Tuesday mourned the death of as many as 130 people who were killed when an overloaded vintage boat sank on the Volga river in the Republic of Tatarstan.

After round-the-clock rescue efforts, bodies of 82 people from the Bulgaria pleasure boat have been lifted on the surface by the divers, while bodies of up to 40 children remain trapped in the Children's Room on the lower deck, local TV channels reported.

According to state-run Rossiya 24 channel, last night a special diving module capable of cutting metal underwater was airlifted to Tatarstan to gain access to the room where up
to 40 children were assembled before the ill-fated boat turned over and sank within minutes. Bodies of five children have already been brought to the surface.

In addition to the wreck site, three kilometres from the shore, the search operation includes the banks and islands in an area extending some 40 km downstream.

"The works must continue," Emergencies Minister Sergey Shoigu ordered in a televised meeting of the Crisis Centre.

The total number of people onboard the vessel is now estimated at 205 passengers and crew members, 79 of them were saved by a passing ship the "Arabella".

On Saturday, the Ministry of Emergencies will begin the operation to lift the whole sunken vessel to the surface as some bodies could still remain trapped.

Two powerful floating cranes have started their journey from Volgograd in the south Volga, Interfax reported.

On Monday, President Dmitry Medvedev ordered a thorough check of all the means of passenger transport in the country including ships and aircraft and declared the state
mourning to mourn the victims of the worst disaster on water in more than three decades.

Today, entertainment programmes have been cancelled nationwide and national TV channels have recast their schedule.

A minute of silence was observed around the same time as the wreck occurred on Sunday.

Medvedev lit candles in memory of the victims at the chapel in his countryside retreat in Gorki, near here. Amidst the grief comes the anger and the questions - why all this happened in the first place.

The Bulgaria pleasure boat sank in just three minutes. Some people are now saying it should never have been on the Volga at all.

Russia Today TV channel said the growing evidence seems to point to gross mismanagement on the vessel, including a broken engine ignored by the captain and blocked emergency exits.

The vessel, built in1955, was given official clearance to sail as recently as last month. Despite this, rescue teams say it was hopelessly outdated.

Quoting the wireless operator of the doomed boat, who survived, newsru.com web portal reported that the ship in distress could not even send SOS as there was no power in the
radio cabin as some of the equipment was out of order due to a fire during an earlier voyage.

A criminal case has been launched against the CEO of the Bulgaria's operator company and senior expert of the Kama River shipping register, who gave the fitness certificate, Interfax reported quoting Investigative Committee's spokesman Vladimir Markin.

Meanwhile, Chief of the Russian Federation's Investigative Committee Alexander Bastrykin has ordered criminal proceedings against captains of two vessels, which passed by the sinking boat without stopping to rescue drowning passengers.

(Agencies)