BUDAPEST • A body was pulled from the Danube more than 100km downstream from Budapest, officials said yesterday, the first apparent victim recovered since the night of a boat crash last week that is presumed to have killed 28 people.
South Korean and Hungarian divers prepared yesterday for an attempt to recover bodies from the wreck of The Mermaid, which sank last Wednesday while carrying 33 South Korean tourists and two Hungarian crew, in the river's worst disaster in half a century.
The Mermaid capsized after being struck from behind by a large cruise liner near a bridge in the centre of Budapest.
The bodies of seven South Koreans were recovered on the night of the disaster and seven were rescued alive. The other 19 passengers and two crew members have been missing since the accident and are presumed dead.
"One dead body, looks like Korean, already found," the South Korean embassy's defence attache Song Shun-Keun told reporters. Hungarian police spokesman Kristof Gal told Reuters that the authorities were still trying to identify the body and could not yet confirm that it was from The Mermaid.
Many of the bodies are believed to still be trapped inside the wreck, which divers have not been able to reach due to high flood waters and strong currents. South Korea sent its own recovery team which joined the operation yesterday.
"We are cooperating with Korean colleagues; this is a joint operation now," Mr Janos Hajdu, the chief of Hungary's counter-terrorism centre TEK and the leader of the recovery operation on the Hungarian side, told a press conference.
He said conditions had improved enough to launch several exploratory missions to the wreck.
One diver was able to descend to the river bed and explore the wreck from the outside, Mr Hajdu said, adding that entering it was potentially lethal.
Lifting the ship would only be possible once the waters subside enough for Hungary's largest crane to fit under the bridges of Budapest and approach the site, Mr Hajdu said.