More bodies found as Danube tourist boat is raised

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At least four more bodies have been recovered as salvage crews raised the wreck of a tourist boat that sank on the Danube in Budapest last month.

Divers entered the boat as a floating crane slowly brought it to the surface.

The Mermaid was carrying South Korean tourists when it collided with a cruise ship and capsized, leaving 20 people dead and eight others missing.

Recovery efforts by Hungarian and South Korean teams have been hampered by high water levels in the Danube.

Footage from the scene on Tuesday morning showed the cabin and upper deck of the boat emerge from the water and divers carrying out search for victims still trapped inside.

Footage of the cabin deck of the boat

The rest of the 70-year-old boat was then slowly brought to the surface with pumps removing water from the hull to stabilise it. The whole operation is expected to take several hours.

One of the divers, Zoltan Papp, said attaching straps to the hull of the boat had been difficult because visibility in the muddy, fast-flowing river had been as low as 10cm (4in) at times.

“It was like being in heavy snowfall or fog,” he told Reuters.

The four bodies recovered have not been formally identified. However, they are believed to be those of the boat’s Hungarian captain and three South Koreans including a six-year-old girl – the only child who died in the accident – the BBC’s Budapest correspondent Nick Thorpe says.

At one point in Tuesday’s operation, a member of the recovery crew fell into the swollen river and had to be rescued by colleagues.

Crowds lined the nearby Margaret Bridge to watch the operation. “It is the first time (I came here) after the tragic event,” said Budapest resident Janos Kadar. “It is very upsetting to think that this could have happened, such tragic events.”

Crowds line up as operation goes on

How the accident happened

The Viking Sigyn cruise ship struck the Mermaid just after 21:00 local time (19:00 GMT) on 29 May as both vessels passed under the Margaret Bridge.

Seven of the 35 people on board were rescued and several bodies quickly recovered, but others were swept away in the swollen river or trapped inside the boat.

Police said the boat had sunk within seven seconds of the collision.

“The current was so fast and people were floating away,” one survivor, identified only by her surname Jung, told Yonhap.

More bodies were recovered in the following days, with one pulled from the Danube more than 100km (60 miles) downstream. Nineteen South Korean tourists and a Hungarian crewman are so far confirmed to have died.

It was the worst disaster on the Danube – Europe’s second-longest river – in more than 50 years.

Investigation into the accident

Once fully out of the water, the wreck of the Mermaid will be taken to a secure location and examined by police, who have launched a criminal investigation.

The Viking Sigyn’s captain, named as 64-year-old Ukrainian national Yuriy C, has been detained on suspicion of reckless misconduct in waterborne traffic leading to mass casualties. His lawyers have said he is devastated but did nothing wrong.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in has said his government will co-operate with Hungarian authorities “to thoroughly investigate the incident”.