BUDAPEST, Hungary – Divers have recovered a body from near the sunken tour boat carrying South Korean tourists that capsized last week after a collision with a river cruise ship, Hungarian officials said Monday.
The agency leading the salvage operations said that Hungarian divers found a body in the water Monday morning during an inspection of the wreck and it was brought to the surface in the afternoon by Korean divers also assisting in the search and recovery efforts.
The identity of the victim wasn’t immediately released.
If confirmed as one of the victims of Wednesday night’s collision on the Danube River, 20 others are still missing. Seven people were rescued after the sinking and seven others were confirmed dead.
During Monday’s search and recovery efforts, relatives of some of the missing South Korean tourists briefly watched the maneuvers from the bridge above the scene of the last week’s mishap.
The Hableany (Mermaid) capsized and sank after colliding with a much larger river cruise ship, the Viking Sygin, near the Hungarian Parliament building.
Seven of the 35 people on board were rescued, with now eight confirmed fatalities and 20 people, including one or two Hungarian crew members, still missing.
During a midday news conference, the head of the government agency in charge of coordinating search and rescue efforts, said Hungarian and South Koreans were taking part together in the exploratory dives meant to recover any bodies possible 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 maneuver but on this we agree with our partners.”
Hajdu said the wreckage was located 29 1/2 feet deep, about 9 feet, 10 inches 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 that a huge floating crane able to lift 200 tons and able to hoist 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 Komaron, roughly 74.5 miles 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 a mile south from the site of the collision when it happened.
“I didn’t hear any communications between the two ships, the Viking and the Hableany, 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.”
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