At least seven S. Korean tourists die in Budapest boat disaster

A woman throwing a flower from a bridge during a search of the Danube River in Budapest, Hungary, yesterday, following a collision of a hotel ship and a smaller cruise ship the previous evening. PHOTO: MTI
A woman throwing a flower from a bridge during a search of the Danube River in Budapest, Hungary, yesterday, following a collision of a hotel ship and a smaller cruise ship the previous evening. PHOTO: MTI

BUDAPEST • Hungarian rescue officials yesterday said there was little chance of finding survivors after a boat carrying South Korean tourists sank on the Danube, killing at least seven people and leaving about 20 people missing.

The boat reportedly collided with another tourist vessel during a rainstorm on Wednesday, near Hungary's iconic Parliament building. It capsized and sank with more than 30 people on board.

At a news conference yesterday, police showed security camera footage from a bridge that captured the two boats colliding at night. "It sank within seven seconds," police colonel Adrian Pal said of the Mermaid.

The cause of the collision is under criminal investigation.

"I am not inclined to say there is no hope, so I would rather say there is a minimal chance (of finding survivors)," Mr Pal Gyorfi, a spokesman for the Hungarian national ambulance service, told the m1 state television station.

"This is not just because of the water temperature, but the strong currents in the river, the vapour above the water surface, as well as the clothes worn by the people who fell in," he said when asked about the search for the missing.

 
 

Heavy recent rains have left the Danube in spate, and local flooding and the strong currents hampered rescuers, one diver told state television. He added that water temperatures ranged from 10 to 12 deg C.

Officials said the hull of the ill-fated Mermaid - a 27m double-decker river cruise boat - had been found on the riverbed just a few hundred metres from its usual mooring point.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in said the authorities would work with the Hungarian government to investigate the cause of the accident. "What's most important is speed," Mr Moon said in Seoul.

The Foreign Ministry said 30 South Korean tourists, including children, three tour guides and two Hungarian crew were on board when the tragedy happened.

Seven South Koreans were rescued, seven died, and 19 were among the missing, said a South Korean Foreign Ministry official. The seven people rescued were suffering from hypothermia but stable, a Hungarian ambulance spokesman said. The two Hungarian crew members were both missing.

Officials have yet to determine what led to the collision between the Mermaid and the 135m Viking Sigyn, a 95-room floating hotel.

The Sigyn's operator, the Swiss-based Viking Cruises, said its crew and guests were not injured.

REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 31, 2019, with the headline 'At least seven S. Korean tourists die in Budapest boat disaster'. Print Edition | Subscribe