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Several dead after Budapest boat sinks

May 30, 2019

At least seven people have died and 21 others are missing after a Hungarian sightseeing boat capsized on the Danube River in Budapest. Most of the passengers were tourists from South Korea.

A police boat on the Danube in front of the Hungarian parliament in Budapest
Image: Reuters/B. Szabo

Hungarian rescue crews on Thursday searched for survivors after a tourist boat collided with another vessel in central Budapest and sank in the Danube River.

At least seven people were confirmed dead and 21 others were missing, rescue officials said. 

The boat, named Hableany (Mermaid) and operated by a South Korean tour agency, was returning from an hour-long night tour when the accident occurred. Two crew members and 33 passengers were on board, most of which were from South Korea.

Collision and sinking

Authorities said the Hableany was traveling close to a Viking cruise ship as they approached the Margit Bridge, not far from Budapest's iconic neo-Gothic parliament building on the riverbank. The two ships were sailing side by side and in the same direction.

But the tour boat veered into the much larger Viking and the two collided. This caused the Hableany to tip to its side, sending several passengers into the water, and then quickly sank around 10:00 p.m. (2000 UTC).

"As the Viking comes into contact with (the Hableany), it overturns it and in about seven seconds, as it turns on its side, it sinks," Police Col. Adrian Pal said.

It remains unclear why the tour boat veered into the cruise ship. Police say they have launched a criminal investigation into the incident, one of the country's worst boat accidents.

Read more: Thousands rally for George Soros-founded university

South Korean President Moon Jae-in has ordered his government to direct "all available resources" to help support rescue work. The Foreign Ministry said it would send an emergency rescue team to Budapest to help in the search operation. 

A rescue boat searches for victims
Rescue boats searched for victims throughout the evening Image: picture-alliance/AP Photo/P. Lakatos

Strong currents make rescue difficult

Dozens of emergency vehicles were stationed downstream from the site of the accident overnight as police blocked off the Danube in central Budapest to ship traffic.

Divers were also scouring the river for missing passengers, but strong currents and high water levels following recent heavy downpours were making their job difficult.

Pal Gyorfi, a spokesman for the National Ambulance Service, said seven people had been rescued so far and taken to hospital in stable condition. But he warned that there was a "minimal chance" of finding any more survivors.

The Hableany was a 27-meter (89-foot) double-decker able to accommodate 60 people, its owner told local media. 

nm,jcg/sms (AP, Reuters, AFP)

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