Tue, Jun 27, 2017 - Page 7 News List

Colombians search for boat bodies

AP, GUATAPE, Colombia

Blanket-wrapped survivors of the sinking of the tour boat El Almirante in Guatape Reservoir near Medallin, Colombia, huddle together on Sunday.

Photo: AFP

Scuba divers yesterday continued searching for bodies in a reservoir near the Colombian city of Medellin where a tourist boat packed with more than 150 passengers for the holiday weekend capsized, leaving at least six people dead and 15 missing.

Rescuers, including firefighters and air force pilots in helicopters, searched for survivors at the Guatape Reservoir where El Almirante sank.

A flotilla of recreational boats and jet skis had rushed to the scene, pulling people from the boat as it went down and avoiding an even deadlier tragedy.

Dramatic videos circulating on social media showed the turquoise-and-yellow-trimmed party boat rocking back and forth as people crawled down from a fourth-floor roof as it sank in a matter of minutes.

Survivors described hearing a loud explosion near the men’s bathroom that knocked out power a few minutes after the boat began its cruise around the giant lake. As water flooded on board, pressure built and people were sucked under by the sinking ship.

“Those on the first and second floors sank immediately,” survivor Lorena Salazar told local media. “All we could do was scream and call for help ... it was completely chaotic.”

In the absence of a passenger list, authorities have been relying on family numbers and survivors to report their whereabouts.

Overnight they reduced to 15 the number of people missing, down from an earlier count of twice that amount.

Of the 134 survivors, three remain hospitalized, but are out of danger, said Margarita Moncada, the head of the Antioquia state disaster relief agency.

A group of 25 scuba divers had to suspend their search overnight due to a lightning storm, but they resumed their work before dawn yesterday in hour-long shifts, looking to sweep for trapped bodies in the frigid, algae-filled waters around the wreckage at a depth of more than 30m.

Moncada said the hardest part for scuba divers is to safely search the area around the first floor of the boat. It is unclear what caused the boat to sink.

“Nobody really knows what happened,” Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos said.

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