Divers have recovered a body from the Danube River in Budapest, where a tour boat carrying South Korean tourists capsized and sunk last week after colliding with a river cruise ship, Hungarian officials said Monday.
The agency leading the salvage operations said Hungarian divers found a body in the water Monday morning during an inspection of the wreck. Korean divers who were also assisting in the search and recovery efforts brought the body to the surface in the afternoon.
The identity of the person wasn’t immediately released.
If the body is confirmed to be one of the victims of Wednesday night’s collision, it means 20 others are still missing — including one or two Hungarian crew members. Seven people were rescued after the sinking, and seven others were confirmed dead.
Relatives of some of the missing South Korean tourists briefly watched Monday’s search and recovery efforts from the bridge above the scene of last week’s mishap.
The boat, called the Mermaid, capsized and sank after colliding with a much larger river cruise ship, the Viking Sygin, near the Hungarian parliament building.
During a midday news conference, the head of the government agency in charge of co-ordinating search and rescue efforts said Hungarian and South Koreans were working together in the exploratory dives meant to recover any bodies trapped in the wreckage at the Margit Bridge in downtown Budapest.
“We will do everything except for one thing — entering the boat’s wreckage is strictly forbidden,” Janos Hajdu said. “It is an absolutely life-threatening manoeuvre, but on this we agree with our partners.”
Hajdu said the wreckage was located nine metres deep — about three metres lower than previous official estimates.
Despite a few test dives last week, the Danube’s fast flow, its high springtime water levels and near-zero visibility under water have prevented divers from reaching the sunken boat.
Hajdu said a huge floating crane capable of lifting about 181 tonnes and hoisting the boat out of the water is expected at the scene within days. State television reported that the crane was stranded for now at the city of Komarom, roughly 120 kilometres upriver, unable to pass under bridges on its way to Budapest because of the Danube’s high water levels.
Shun-keun Song, military attache at the South Korean Embassy in Budapest, said relatives of the victims were anxious for news.
“If conditions improve … the Korean divers would like to examine the hull of the boat,” he said. “The relatives in Korea are waiting very much for the missing family members to finally appear.”
Zoltan Tolnay, captain of a sightseeing boat in Budapest, said he was about 1.6 kilometres south from the site of the collision when it happened.
“I didn’t hear any communications between the two ships, the Viking and the [Mermaid], in which they would have talked,” Tolnay said. “I didn’t hear a warning. I didn’t hear any indications.
“What we saw was a boat sinking in complete silence into a grave beneath the waves.”