Salvage crews begin lifting Hungarian boat sunk in Danube

BUDAPEST (REUTERS, AFP) - Salvage crews began raising the wreck of a Hungarian boat that capsized on the Danube river in Budapest last month, killing 26 South Korean tourists and two Hungarian crew, Reuters TV reported from the scene on Tuesday (June 11).

The captain’s deck appeared above the water by 0515 GMT (1.15pm Singapore time) followed by the upper deck. Soon after, an Agence France-Presse photographer at the site saw police removing bodies from the vessel.

The Mermaid sank after a large Swiss-owned cruise liner hit it from behind on May 29 as both vessels passed under a 19th century bridge in the Hungarian capital during heavy rain.

It was the worst disaster on Europe’s longest river in half a century. The bodies of all but eight of the victims have been recovered. 

Only seven people of the 35 people on board are known to have survived the accident. Those missing include a six-year-old girl as well as the Mermaid's Hungarian captain.

Divers had been unable to enter the submerged boat due to the strong current in the river swollen after weeks of rain. To raise the vessel, divers have inserted four straps under the wreck to allow a huge floating crane to raise it.

It would be a very slow manoeuvre because the Mermaid was about 70 years old and it was hard to assess how much damage its structure had suffered during the collision, Hungarian special forces have said.

The captain’s deck appeared above the water by 0515 GMT (1.15pm Singapore time), Reuters TV reported. 

Divers will now search for the body of the captain before continuing to lift the boat slowly to avoid breaking the hull.  There could also be more bodies trapped inside. 

The captain of the river cruise ship, the Viking Sigyn, has been arrested on suspicion of "endangering waterborne traffic resulting in multiple deaths".