Friday 23 August 2019

Seven dead and 12 missing after tourist boat sinks in Danube

Currents: Flooding and fast currents made rescue efforts difficult. Photo: Getty Images
Currents: Flooding and fast currents made rescue efforts difficult. Photo: Getty Images

Marton Dunai

At least seven people died and 12 were missing last night after a tourist boat capsized on the Danube in the Hungarian capital of Budapest.

There were dozens of people aboard the capsized boat, and a rescue effort was underway in difficult conditions through the night after the river was closed to all traffic.

Bodies of victims of were found up to several kilometres away from the site of the accident, according to one local reporter at the scene.

The boat was reportedly moored at the river bank when it was struck by another tourist vessel near the Hungarian parliament building.

It then turned upside down in the river, which is at very high levels due to flooding, with very strong currents, while a rainstorm enveloped Budapest.

News web site cited the boat's owner as saying the boat - the Mermaid - had sunk.

It was difficult last night to verify the information about the number of victims.

The Hungarian state news agency MTI said the boat carried 34 people - mostly Asian tourists plus crew. State television reported that there were 32 tourists and two crew on board.

A police spokeswoman and the disaster units spokesman could not immediately comment.

Rescue efforts were under way, with dozens of vehicles visible several hundred metres downstream from the site of the accident, which happened shortly before 10pm (8pm GMT).

Eighteen people were accounted for, with seven dead and 12 missing, state media reported, citing authorities.

At least one tourist had to be revived, and several people needed treatment, the National Ambulance Service told state news agency MTI.

Television footage showed the bank of the Danube closed off by police on the Pest side, across from the World Heritage site of Buda Castle.

Police ordered all shipping to stop on the Danube in central Budapest.

The Danube's flooding and currents made rescue efforts extremely difficult, a rescue diver told the state broadcaster.

He added that the water temperature in the Danube was only about 10-12C, reducing the crucial rescue window for survivors in the water.

The boat was a 27-metre double-decker vessel which could hold up to 60 people.

It was equipped with a 150-horsepower engine, its owner, Panorama Deck Ltd, told MTI in a statement.

The Mermaid had been in their fleet since 2003 and received regular maintenance, they said.

Irish Independent

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