BUDAPEST: Rescue workers were searching a vast length of the River Danube on Thursday for 21 tourists and crew missing after a sightseeing boat collided with a larger ship and sank within seconds.
Seven other people are confirmed dead. Police launched a criminal investigation into the collision, which happened during a torrential downpour at 22.00 CET on Wednesday.
The South Korea-based Very Good Tour agency, which organized the trip, said the boat had been on its way back after an hour-long night tour when the accident happened.
Pal Gyorfi, spokesman for the National Ambulance Service, said those rescued were hospitalized in stable condition but added that there was “minimal hope” for the missing.
The sunken boat was located near the Margit Bridge, not far from Hungary’s neo-Gothic riverside Parliament building.
But rescue operations were hampered by the rain and the fast flow of the rising river. The search for the missing extended far downstream, even into Serbia, where the Danube flows after leaving Hungary.
“Divers say it’s unfortunately unlikely to find anybody alive after hours in cold water like this, it’s around 10 degrees centigrade,” Euronews reporter Anna Flóri told Good Morning Europe.
Employees from the South Korean Embassy in Budapest were assisting Hungarian officials in identifying those rescued and the victims. South Korean President Moon Jae-in also dispatched a government task force led by Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha.
The Very Good Tour agency said the tourists left South Korea on May 25 and were supposed to return June 1. Most of them were family groups, and they included a 6-year-old girl. Her status wasn’t immediately clear but she didn’t appear on a list of survivors provided by the tour agency.
The boat that sank was identified as the Hableany (Mermaid). MihalyToth, a spokesman for owners, the Panorama Deck boating company, said the vessel was on a “routine city sightseeing trip” when the accident happened.