Colombia Guatape tourist boat sinks killing several people | Americas| North and South American news impacting on Europe | DW | 26.06.2017
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Colombia Guatape tourist boat sinks killing several people

A cruise boat laden with 170 people has sunk in a popular tourist area of Colombia. Videos showed the boat rocking back and forth as dozens of vessels plucked survivors from the water.

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Colombia tourist boat sinks with 170 onboard

At least nine people died and 28 others were missing after a tourist boat sank in northwestern Colombia on Sunday, regional officials said.

The four-deck El Almirante was carrying 170 people when it sunk in the El Penol reservoir in the tourist town of Guatape, 68 kilometers (40 miles) from Medellin Most of them were rescued.

"At the moment we officially have nine people who have been found dead" and "approximately 28 people reported missing," Margarita Moncada, head of the disaster prevention department of the Antioquia regional government told news agency AFP.

"It sank extremely quickly. It all happened in a few minutes," fire service Captain Luis Bernardo Morales told AFP.

The military said one helicopter from the air force and two from the army were helping rescue operations.

Rescue officials gather to take part in a search for survivors after the tourist boat Almirante sank in the Reservoir of Penol in Guatape municipality in Antioquia (Getty Images/AFP/J. Sarmiento)

Witnesses said the ship sank in just minutes

"Those on the first and second floors sank immediately," a female survivor who wasn't identified by name told broadcaster Teleantioquia.

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"The boat was sinking and all we could do was scream and call for help."

The Antioquia regional government said on Twitter that 24 people were being treated in hospital.

Videos circulating on social media showed the turquoise and yellow trimmed boat rocking back and forth as people crawled down from a fourth-floor roof as it began sinking into the water.

Cause not known

The ship sank as dozens of other vessels approached to try to rescue people.

"What we have seen in the videos is that the boat was very close to the port... and we do not know whether it was a mechanical failure, an overloading or something to do with the currents that caused it to sink," said Morales, the fire captain.

Guatape is popular with tourists, particularly on long weekends such as this one. They come for cruises on the reservoir and to fish and jet-ski.

President Juan Manuel Santos said on Twitter the air force and rescue services were deploying to deal with the "emergency."

"We are ready to provide the assistance required," he wrote.

aw/jm (AFP, AP, Reuters, dpa)

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