Seven people were confirmed dead, and 21 remained missing early May 30 after a sightseeing boat carrying 33 South Korean passengers and two crew members collided with another vessel and sank in the Danube River in downtown Budapest.
South Korea’s Foreign Ministry later confirmed that 33 of its citizens were on the boat and said 19 were still missing. The two crew members were identified as Hungarian.
South Korean President Moon Jae-In instructed officials for the launch of a government task force led by Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-what to deal with the accident and maintain close communication with the family members of the South Korean passengers.
The sunken boat was located early May 30 near the Margit Bridge, not far from the neo-Gothic Parliament building on the river bank.
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.
The collision happened on a favorite part of the river from where sightseers can view the city and parliament, which is lit up at night.
Strong currents have hampered the search for another 21 people still missing – 19 South Koreans, the second boat’s Hungarian captain, and one crew member – preventing divers from reaching the submerged vessel.
It is so far unclear what caused the accident, in which the 135-meter cruise ship hit and sank the smaller pleasure boat on Wednesday night.
Water levels are expected to peak on Saturday, and the current depth of the river, just short of 6 meters should fall to about 4 meters by mid-week, the National Water Authority said in a statement.
That would leave the wreck very close to the surface, according to sonar imaging, and should make it easier to search it for bodies and prepare to remove it from the riverbed; something divers have been unable to do under the current hostile conditions.
Larger river cruise boats traveling on the Danube between Germany and the Black Sea typically spend several days moored in the capital.
The captain of a river cruise ship that collided with a smaller sightseeing vessel in Hungary has been charged. Rescue officials said seven bodies had been recovered. Pal Gyorfi, the spokesman for the National Ambulance Service, said seven people were rescued and hospitalized in stable condition following the accident Wednesday night.