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Bringing up the bodies in Budapest ferry disaster

PortandTerminal.com, June 10, 2019

Search operations continue near the Margaret bridge on the Danube river after a boat carrying South Korean tourists capsized in Budapest, Hungary, June 2, 2019

Budapest, Hungary – Hungarian salvage crews prepared on Monday to raise the wreck of a pleasure boat that capsized on the Danube river in Budapest, killing 26 South Korean tourists and two local crew.

The Mermaid sank after a large Swiss-owned cruise liner struck it from behind on May 29 as both vessels passed under a 19th-century bridge in the Hungarian capital during heavy rain.

It was the worst disaster in half a century on Europe’s longest river, which has become an increasingly popular route for massive hotel cruisers.

Bodies of all but eight of the victims have been recovered.

Recovery operations very difficult

The first, smaller crane vessel standing by near Margit bridge on 31 May 2019.
Fotó: Ajpek Orsi / Index

According to the experts participating in the search operation, the high water level of the Danube, coupled with the strong currents are hampering their efforts considerably. Even accessing the wreckage is difficult due to the low visibility and the strong currents, and divers need to map the area of the shipwreck in great detail before the lifting can even be planned.

On Monday, divers were inserting straps under the sunken wreck to allow a big floating crane to lift it, possibly starting on Tuesday morning, according to South Korean Embassy defense attache Song Shun-Keun.

Recovery operations under the Margit (Margaret) Bridge

In a briefing with reporters, he expressed concern that the ship might break up, or bodies could be dislodged. “Therefore, Hungarian experts spend a lot of time figuring out how to lift the ship in a good balanced position,” he said.

Hungarian special forces spokesman Nandor Jasenszky told Reuters divers had fixed three of the four straps needed, but they were having problems with the fourth one under the boat.

The Viking Sigyn cruise liner’s captain, a 64-year-old Ukrainian man identified by police as C. Yuriy, is being held as a suspect. His lawyers said he was upset but did nothing wrong.

Seven South Koreans were saved and 20 of the victims’ bodies have been recovered so far. On a nearby embankment, people have placed flowers, candles and teddy bears.

Kang Kyung-wha, center, foreign minister of South Korea, together with her Hungarian counterpart, Peter Szijjarto, right, visits the bank of the Danube River close to Margit Bridge

“I sincerely hope the missing bodies can be retrieved and brought back to their families to rest,” said South Korean tourist Lee Seung Hwan, standing by the river.

The sinking of the tourist ferry carrying South Korean tourists in Hungary has touched a raw nerve in South Korea. Many there are still deeply traumatized by a 2014 ferry sinking that killed 304 people, most of whom were young high school students and friends on a field trip together.

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