BUDAPEST, Hungary (AP) — A huge floating crane has been placed in the heart of Budapest to help raise a sunken tour boat off the floor of the Danube River.
Before the crane, which was positioned Friday near Margit Bridge, can be used, wire harnesses have to be installed under the boat. Full preparations may take at least another day or two.
Hungarian authorities are under pressure to raise the sightseeing boat Hableany (Mermaid), which sank after it was struck by a river cruise ship, the Viking Sigyn, on the evening of May 29 during heavy rain.
Eighteen South Korean tourists and a Hungarian crewman are confirmed dead from the collision, with nine others still missing. Seven South Koreans were rescued.
Hungarian river police are using 15 vessels and several cadaver dogs in their search for the missing. The search is going as far as some 200 kilometers (124 miles) south of Budapest towards the border with Serbia.
Most of the 12 bodies recovered since Monday were found within Budapest’s city limits, though the remains of one South Korean man were discovered 132 kilometers (82 miles) downstream.
“We think it is likely that several victims are in the hull of the sunken boat,” said Danube river police chief Richard Prohászka. “We handle these situations quickly and professionally.”
The search and recovery efforts have been hindered by the Danube’s usually high springtime water levels, its fast flow and very limited visibility under water.
Hungary’s water management agency said that neighboring Slovakia, which shares the Danube with Hungary along a 140-kilometer (87-miles) border, would temporarily divert part of the river’s flow to a backwater. It was hoped that this will speed up the fall of the river’s water level for the time needed by the crane to lift out the Hableany.
South Korean Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha, who was in Budapest two days after the accident, expressed her thanks to Hungary for the efforts to find the missing people and police efforts to clarify the cause of the accident.
“Just hugely grateful for the fullest cooperation we’re getting from the Hungarian authorities in terms of the search and also in terms of the investigation,” Kang said at a Globesec conference in Slovakia. “And also to the neighboring countries for the support of equipment, of personnel that this has required.”
The Viking Sigyn’s Ukrainian captain, identified earlier as Yuriy C., referencing his first name and the initial letter of his last name, was placed under arrest for 30 days on Saturday, suspected of endangering water transport leading to a deadly mass accident. He remains in custody while an appeals court rules on prosecutors’ objections to his release on bail of 15 million forints ($52,770).