Seven tourists dead in boat disaster

SUNDAY TIMES WEB DESK: Officials said the hull of the ill-fated Mermaid, a 27-meter (89-ft) double-decker river cruise boat, had been found on the riverbed just a few hundred meters from its usual mooring point.

A crane ship docked near the wreck early on Thursday in preparation for recovery operations.

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban and President Janos Ader send their condolences to Seoul. “We are with the victims and their families in our thoughts and prayers in these most difficult times,” Orban said, according to his spokesman.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in said the authorities would work with the Hungarian government to investigate the cause of the accident.

“What’s most important is speed,” Moon said in Seoul.

The foreign ministry said 30 South Korean tourists, including children, three tour guides and two Hungarian crew were on board when the tragedy happened, around 9 p.m. (1900 GMT).

Seven South Koreans were rescued, seven died, and 19 were among the missing, said Kang Hyung-shik, a foreign ministry official. The seven people rescued were suffering from hypothermia but stable, a Hungarian ambulance spokesman said.

The Hungarian authorities confirmed the death toll. The two Hungarian crew members were both missing. Police said the seven people who died had no life vests on.

“We have found the wreckage with a sonar,” police Col. Adrian Pal told a press briefing. “We are looking at ways to extract (the Mermaid) from the river.”

“At this point we cannot confirm or deny whether there are any bodies trapped inside the hull.”

The crash happened extremely fast, according to video footage of a security camera shown by police at the press conference. The bigger boat, catching up from behind at a higher speed, caught the Mermaid’s left side.