Korea seeks collaboration with countries along river
By Lee Min-hyung
Korea joined Hungary in search and rescue operations, Friday, for Korean tourists missing from the capsized sightseeing boat Hableany on the Danube River in Budapest, according to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
This comes two days after the boat carrying 33 Koreans sank after a collision with a larger sightseeing vessel. However, little progress has so far been made due to harsh weather conditions.
“I asked for an early raising of the sunken boat, and the expansion of the scope of search operations to neighboring countries along the river,” Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha said during a press conference with Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto after arriving at the site.
Kang headed for Budapest to coordinate with the Hungarian authorities’ search and rescue efforts there, and seek collaboration with neighboring countries through which the river flows.
Inclement weather conditions, the fast flow of the river and low visibility in the water are blocking operations. Kang asked the Hungarian government to set up nets around the wreckage to prevent bodies from being carried away.
Twenty-one people, including 19 Koreans and two Hungarian crew members, are still missing following the tragedy on the Danube in the Hungarian capital, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said. As of 10 p.m., Friday, seven Koreans have been confirmed to have died while seven survived out of the 35 people on board the Hableany (Mermaid in English).
Second Vice Foreign Minister Lee Tae-ho said the ministry has requested Hungary’s neighboring countries, Serbia, Romania, Croatia and the Ukraine, to cooperate in the search for the missing people.
The ministry views search operations need to be extended downstream into these countries as the missing tourists may have been swept along by the fast-flowing river.
“We have obtained their commitment for close cooperation, and they have launched their own searches,” Lee said.
An advance emergency rescue team from Korea also arrived on early Friday there for swift post-accident management. The government plans to send 47 officials from relevant ministries and organizations, such as Cheong Wa Dae, the foreign ministry and the National Police Agency, to the accident site.
Cheong Wa Dae said it continues to check the rescue status in real-time through communications with Hungarian authorities.
“President Moon Jae-in keeps receiving briefings,” a Cheong Wa Dae official said.
Kang’s arrival at the scene is expected to help with developments in the rescue operation, the official said, adding that the vice foreign minister will discuss countermeasures here through meetings with officials from relevant organizations.
The foreign ministry said it had confirmed the identity of the seven dead.
With regard to the ongoing rescue operations, a ministry official said Hungary’s anti-terrorism authority is using divers to inspect the sunken boat in a water depth of three meters.
“The Hungarian maritime police and rescue teams are mobilizing helicopters and underwater drones,” the official said.
“As there is a slim possibility for the missing people to be inside the boat, the government has asked the Hungarian authorities to salvage the ship as soon as possible,” he said. But unfavorable weather conditions are blocking this at the moment, the official added.
The Hableany was hit by the larger sightseeing vessel and capsized on the river at 9:05 p.m. Wednesday.
The Hungarian police detained the captain of that boat Friday ― a 64-year-old Ukrainian man who is suspected of neglecting his duty and thus causing the accident.
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