Boat carrying dozens of S. Korean tourists capsizes in Hungarian capital

Gergely Besenyei, AFP | Hundreds of rescue workers try to help at the bank of the Danube River at Budapest downtown after a river boat capsized on May 29, 2019.

At least seven people were killed and 21 missing after a pleasure boat carrying South Korean tourists capsized on the flooding Danube in the Hungarian capital on Wednesday, police and ambulance said.


Police said the boat had been carrying 33 South Korean tourists plus a crew of two. State media cited a South Korean embassy official as saying the passengers included children.

The river Danube has flooded and the boat was battling strong currents when it struck a larger passenger vessel and sunk almost immediately on impact.

The catastrophe amidst stormy weather occurred near the Hungarian parliament building in Budapest.

Criminal investigation

Police have launched a criminal investigation into the accident.

The police said it may take days to lift the tourist boat from the river bed and are therefore unable to give further information about the missing.

A major rescue mission is under way with boats, divers, spotlights, and radar scanning along the river for survivors.

Dozens of emergency vehicles are currently on a stretch several kilometres downstream from the accident site, which happened shortly after 9 pm (1900 GMT).

Many of the rescued are suffering from hypothermia but remain stable.

Journalists at the scene said they saw children’s ambulances on the riverbank.

Time of the essence

The hours that have passed since the accident make it less likely that survivors will be found, as the strong currents may have carried people far downstream, emergency rescue chiefs said. The waters of the Danube are only about 10-12 degrees Celsius (50 to 54 Fahrenheit).

The National Ambulance Service is conducting searches along a stretch downstream from Budapest and the entire Danube south of Budapest is on alert.

All river traffic has been halted.

Television footage showed the bank of the Danube closed off by police, across from the World Heritage site of Buda Castle.

Boat manufactured in Soviet Union in 1949

The boat was a 27-metre (89-foot) double-decker river cruise boat that can hold up to 60 people and was equipped with a 150-horsepower engine, its owner, Panorama Deck Ltd., told state media.

The Mermaid had been in their fleet since 2003 and received regular maintenance, they said.

According to boat register, the Mermaid was originally manufactured in 1949 in the Soviet Union and received a Hungarian-made new engine in the 1980s.

Neither the boat registry nor the boat's operator could be immediately reached for comment on the boat's age.

The hull of the boat was found on the riverbed just a few hundred metres from its usual mooring point.

(FRANCE 24 with REUTERS and AFP)

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