7 dead, 21 missing in Budapest boat disaster
BUDAPEST, Hungary — Rescue divers and boats using spotlights and radar scanners made a last-ditch attempt to find survivors on Thursday after a sightseeing boat sank on the River Danube in Budapest during an evening downpour, leaving seven people confirmed dead and a further 21 missing.
The dead and 19 of the missing were South Korean tourists who were not wearing life jackets, officials said. The boat collided with a larger cruise ship during a rainstorm, before overturning and sinking, police reported.
A video presented by police shows the Hableany (Mermaid), a 89-ft double-decker cruise boat, heading north next to the much larger Sigyn, from cruise line operator Viking, when the two collided.
Police said the smaller one swerved into the larger one, was struck, turned on its side and then sank in seconds. They have opened a criminal investigation into the incident which took place just after 9 p.m.
Viking said no one aboard the its ship was injured, and that it is cooperating with the authorities. The company, with offices in Switzerland and California, provided no further details.
The ship is now anchored nearby. The collision took place in the heart of Budapest near the ornate parliament building.
Officials in Seoul confirmed that seven South Korean tourists are dead and 19 others are missing as well as with two Hungarian crew members.
South Korea’s government said it was sending a team of 33 emergency rescue workers, military experts and officials to Hungary to help with the rescue effort.
“What’s most important is speed,” President Moon Jae-in said at an emergency government meeting, instructing officials to use “all available resources to help.”
Seoul’s Foreign Ministry and the Very Good Tour Agency, which organized the trip, said 30 South Korean tourists, two tour guides and a photographer, as well two Hungarian crew members, were aboard the boat when it sank.
Seven people were rescued from the water and have been hospitalized, said Pal Gyorfi, spokesman for Hungary’s National Ambulance Service, according to the Associated Press. They were suffering from hypothermia but stable. Four have since been released and returned to their hotels. He expressed doubt that many more survivors would be found.
Water temperatures were between 50-54 degrees.
Most of the tourists were traveling with their families and the group included a 6-year-old girl whose name did not appear on the list of survivors provided by the tour agency, which included six women and one man aged between 31 and 66, AP reported.
With rain continuing, currents swirling and the river flowing fast, rescuers were searching several miles downstream of the accident.
The National Directorate General for Disaster Managment said it will be a complex operation to raise the stricken boat from where it sank near the Margit bridge that connects the two halves of the twin cities of Buda and Pest and will likely involved the construction of a pontoon bridge.