7 die as tour boat sinks in Hungary

Seven South Korean tourists have died and another 21 people are missing after a boat sank on the Danube river in Hungary’s capital, Budapest.

Thirty South Korean tourists and three tour guides, as well as two Hungarian crew, were on the tour boat when it collided with another vessel.

The incident occurred just after 21:00 local time (19:00 GMT) on Wednesday.

Seven people have been rescued, and a massive search operation is continuing on a river swollen by heavy rainfall.

The rain had led to strong currents on the Danube, and rescue teams say there is little hope of finding more survivors.

It was not immediately clear which vessel was responsible for the collision, a rare incident on the Danube where navigation is busy but generally safe.

A criminal investigation has been launched.

The boat that sank near the parliament building in central Budapest was identified as the Hableany, or Mermaid. It has two decks and a capacity of 45 people for sightseeing trips.

CCTV footage has emerged showing the Hableany and a larger tour boat, the Viking Sigyn, travelling in the same direction and colliding near the Margit (Margaret) Bridge.

The boat sank within seven seconds after the collision, police spokesman Adrian Pal said. The seven confirmed victims were not wearing life jackets.

Emergency crews discovered the wreckage of the Mermaid, built in 1949 in the former Soviet Union, on the riverbed near the Margaret Bridge and were preparing to lift it.

The captain of the Swiss-registered Viking Sigyn was interviewed on Wednesday night.

Meanwhile, Imre Horvath, the head of the Hungarian National Shipping Association, said he believed it was a human error, MTI news agency reported, although he gave no further details.

Seven survivors were taken to hospital with “hypothermia and shock symptoms”, said Pal Gyorfi, a spokesman for Hungarian emergency services.

They were all rescued by other boats within 30 minutes of the accident.

The rescue effort continued yesterday with boats, divers, spotlights, and radar scanning along the river – where the temperature of the water was between 10C and 12C (50F-54F).

But teams warned that, as more time passed, the strong currents would carry people further downstream, lessening the chances of finding survivors.

There has been a dramatic increase in river traffic in recent years as tourism increases in Budapest. –BBC

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