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Passengers drown as boat capsizes near Odessa

An overloaded passenger vessel has sunk during a storm in the Black Sea, claiming several lives, Ukrainian officials say. The small boat overturned a kilometer from the shore.

At least 12 people were killed when the pleasure boat Ivolga went down on Saturday near Zatoka, a village some 50 kilometers (30 miles) southwest of the

Ukrainian port city Odessa.

"The reason for this tragedy were storms and an absence of life jackets," said deputy governor of the Odessa region Volodymyr Jmak.

The boat, which was built to carry 12 passengers and three crew members, had a total of 36 people on board when it was caught in a strong storm, according to Ukrainian officials.

"Bodies of the 12 victims have already been taken out of the water. The rescuers are still searching for one missing person, " Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Hennadiy Zubko posted on Twitter.

"The tragedy happened one kilometer from the shore. The water is so cold that the chances are slim," he added.

The remaining 23 passengers have been rescued and most of them are hospitalized, according to the authorities.

Saakashvili on the scene

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko expressed his condolences to the families of the victims.

"I have ordered a thorough investigation into the reasons for the tragedy, so something similar does not happen in the future," he said on Twitter.

Ex-president of Georgia Mikhail Saakashvili,

who is now a Ukrainian citizen and Odessa regional governor, visited the scene in Zatoka and said that the police were "establishing the identity of the victims."

The authorities declared Sunday a day of mourning in the region.

dj/bk (AFP, AP, Reuters, Interfax)

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