Search for 21 missing people after seven people die as tourist boat sinks 'in seven seconds' in Budapest

Andy Wells
Freelance Writer
Seven people have died after a boat sank on the Danube River in Budapest (PA)

Rescue officials have confirmed that seven people have died after a sightseeing boat collided with another vessel and sank in a matter of seconds on the Danube River in Budapest.

Pal Gyorfi, spokesman for the National Ambulance Service, said seven people were rescued and transported to hospital in stable condition following the accident on Wednesday night.

National police spokesman Kristof Gal said 33 South Koreans and two crew members were on the boat, that collided with a larger cruise ship during an evening downpour.

Nineteen South Koreans and the Hungarian crew members are missing.

The boat was carrying 33 South Korean passengers and two crew members (AP)

The tour party had consisted of 30 tourists, two guides and a photographer on a package tour of Europe.

The Very Good Tour agency said the tourists left South Korea on May 25 and were supposed to return on June 1.

Most of them were family groups and they included a six-year-old girl.

Senior agency official Lee Sang-moo disclosed the identities of the seven rescued South Koreans - six women and one man, aged between 31 and 66.

Seven people were rescued and transported to hospital in stable condition following the accident (AP)
The location of the boat accident (AFP)

Police Colonel Adrian Pal said the boat turned on its side and sank in about seven seconds.

He said that rescue operations were hampered by the rain and the fast flow of the rising Danube.

The search for the 21 missing extended far downstream, even into Serbia, where the Danube goes after leaving Hungary.

Water temperatures were about 10C to 12C (50F-53F).

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South Korea's Foreign Ministry said the tourists were not wearing life jackets, but added this was customary for sightseeing boats on the Danube.

South Korean president Moon Jae-in instructed officials to employ "all available resources" to support the rescue efforts in Hungary.

Mr Moon's spokeswoman Ko Min-jung said in Seoul that Mr Moon also ordered the launch of a government task force led by foreign minister Kang Kyung-wha to deal with the accident and maintain close communication with the family members of the South Korean passengers.

The sunken boat was located early on Thursday near the Margit Bridge, not far from the neo-Gothic Parliament building on the river bank.

The tourists were not wearing life jackets, which is customary for sightseeing boats on the Danube (AP)
Rescuers search for victims on the river bank after a boat sank on the Danube River in Budapest (AP)

Employees from the South Korean Embassy in Budapest were assisting Hungarian officials in identifying those rescued and the deceased.

Officials said searchers were checking the Danube for miles downriver from Budapest. The river was fast-flowing and rising as heavy rain continued in the city.

Earlier, the news website said one of the people rescued was found near the Petofi Bridge, which is about two miles south of Parliament.

Dozens of rescue personnel, including from the military and divers, were involved in the search.

South Korea's Foreign Ministry confirmed that 33 of its citizens were on the boat and said 19 were still missing (AP)
Seven people have been confirmed dead after the sightseeing boat sunk (AP)

The boat that sank was identified as the "Hableany" (Mermaid), which is described on the sightseeing company's website as "one of the smallest members of the fleet”.

It has two decks and a capacity for 60 people, or 45 for sightseeing cruises.

Mihaly Toth, a spokesman for the Panorama Deck boating company, said the "Hableany" was on a "routine city sightseeing trip" when the accident happened.

He told state television that he had no information about any technical problems with the boat, which he said was serviced regularly.

Police launched a criminal investigation into the incident.

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