A sightseeing boat carrying 33 South Koreans capsized in Budapest on Wednesday, leaving at least seven Koreans dead and 19 others missing.
The boat capsized in the Danube River at about 9:15 p.m., with 33 Koreans and two Hungarian crew members onboard. Of the Koreans onboard, seven have been rescued while another seven Koreans and one of the Hungarian crew have been confirmed dead.
The rescued individuals are said to be in stable condition, and search for the missing 20 is ongoing.
Of the 33 Koreans, 30 were tourists on a six-nation package tour to Eastern Europe, according to the travel agency Very Good Tour, which organized the trip.
The exact cause of the accident remained unclear, but the sightseeing boat is believed to have collided with a larger vessel as it was returning from a sightseeing cruise along the Danube.
The Hungarian authorities are said to be set to investigate the larger vessel suspected of having collided with the ferry.
According to reports, strong currents caused by heavy rainfall are hampering rescue operations.
South Korean Ambassador to Hungary Choe Kyoo-Sik said that the local authorities plan to begin recovering the sunken vessel within Thursday.
In a video conference with Minister of Foreign Affairs Kang Kyung-wha, Choe said that Hungarian authorities also plan to deploy helicopters for the search operations. Kang is the head of the emergency response headquarters established on orders of President Moon Jae-in.
Choe also said that he has requested Hungary to prioritize searching inside the vessel, and to make arrangements for South Korean rescue workers to take part in the search mission.
Moon had ordered the response headquarters to be established upon being briefed on the accident, according to Cheong Wa Dae.
The president also held a telephone conversation with Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, requesting full support in handling the developments.
Cheong Wa Dae did not reveal the time at which Moon was briefed on the accident, saying only that the president was informed “very early” and his orders were rapidly relayed. According to Seoul’s Foreign Ministry, it became aware of the accident about 10 minutes after it occurred.
The emergency response headquarters has also formed a rapid response team, some of whom left for Budapest at 1 p.m. Thursday. Kang was set to leave Seoul for Budapest later in the day.
The rapid response team comprises 19 Foreign Ministry and National Fire Agency officials, including 12 rescue specialists from the fire agency.
The government will also dispatch 13 rescue specialists from the Coast Guard and the Navy, along with two members of the national crisis management center. The Ministry of National Defense is also reviewing dispatching a deep-sea search specialist.
At a meeting with concerned government ministers, Moon reiterated the need to cooperate with the Hungarian authorities and to seek support from neighboring countries if necessary.
“Cooperate with the Hungarian authorities through all possible diplomatic channels to ensure that search and rescue operations can be carried out swiftly,” Moon said.
He also urged the ministers to ensure that the South Korean rescue team arrives on the scene as soon as possible, and to exercise caution to avoid further accidents occurring during the rescue operation.
“The government will work with the Hungarian government to thoroughly investigate the cause of the accident,” Moon said, adding that the concerned ministries should focus on supporting the victims and their families and that the National Intelligence Service should support the efforts.
By Choi He-suk (email@example.com