Seven South Korean tourists died and 21 others were missing after a sightseeing boat capsized and sank on the Danube River in Budapest, Hungarian and South Korean officials said yesterday.
The accident happened near the parliament building in the heart of the Hungarian capital after a collision with a larger river cruise boat during torrential rain at about 9:15pm on Wednesday, officials said.
A total of 33 South Koreans were on board, the South Korean Ministry of Foreign Affairs said, confirming the seven dead were citizens.
The youngest was a six-year-old girl, travel agency officials said.
The 26m tourist boat, the Mermaid, was also carrying two Hungarian crew members.
“Our services have recorded the death of seven people,” Pal Gyorfi, a spokesman for Hungarian emergency services, said early yesterday morning. “Seven people have been taken to hospital in a stable condition with hypothermia and shock symptoms.”
“A further 21 people are missing,” Hungarian police spokesman Kristof Gal said. “Police are searching the river throughout the entire length of the Danube in Hungary south of where the incident took place.”
Local media reported that one of the bodies was found several kilometers south of the location of the collision, although Gal declined to confirm this.
The temperature of the river water is between 10°C and 15°C, local media reported.
The search for the missing with the help of divers and police shining lights continued through the night, a photographer at the scene said.
A film crew working from a bridge south of the accident site also used reflector lights to help light up the water through the gloom and pouring rain, local media reported.
Heavy rainfall since the beginning of this month has led to high water levels and a fast-moving river current, complicating rescue efforts.
The accident happened on a popular part of the Danube for pleasure trips, from where passengers can view the city and parliament building illuminated at night.
The boat was regularly serviced and had no apparent technical faults, Mihaly Toth, a spokesman for Panorama Deck, the company that owned the vessel, told Hungarian news agency MTI.
“It was a routine sightseeing trip,” Toth said. “We know nothing about how it happened, the authorities are investigating, all we know is that it sank quickly.”
An eyewitness told the Index.hu Web site that the Mermaid, which could hold 60 people, had been hit from behind by a larger cruise boat.
Web camera footage from a hotel rooftop posted on news Web sites appeared to show the larger boat colliding with the Mermaid.
The wreckage of the Mermaid was found on the riverbed after several hours of searching near Margaret Bridge, one of the main bridges connecting the two parts of the Hungarian capital, local media reported.
Access to the river has been blocked by the authorities, public television reported.
South Korean President Moon Jae-in instructed the government to “deploy all available resources” for the rescue, the presidential office said.
Seoul planned to send a team of 18 officials to assist the authorities in Budapest, Yonhap news agency reported.
South Korean Minister of Foreign Affairs Kang Kyung-wha was to leave for Budapest yesterday as head of a government task force, the foreign ministry said.
South Korean embassy staff have also been assisting the emergency services in the identification of victims.
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