BUDAPEST, Hungary (AP) — A sunken tour boat involved in a May 29 collision on the Danube River that killed at least 19 people is unlikely to be raised out of the water before Tuesday, Hungarian rescue officials said Saturday.
The sightseeing boat was carrying 33 South Koreans and a two-man Hungarian crew when it collided with a much larger cruise ship on the river in Budapest.
Seven South Koreans were rescued after the nighttime crash in heavy rain but eight of the passengers on the Hableany (Mermaid) and the boat’s captain are still missing.
Hungarian and South Korean divers have been working for days to prepare the Hableany to be raised off the river floor. A huge floating crane has been in place since Friday at the Margit Bridge site of the accident, near the Hungarian Parliament building.
Nandor Jasenszky, a spokesman for Hungary’s Counter Terrorism Center, which is coordinating search and recovery efforts, said there was “a serious chance” that four wire harnesses under the boat in preparation for the raising would be in place by after Monday’s Pentecost holiday.
“Installing the large harnesses will begin (Sunday),” Jasenszky said. “At what pace we can make progress depends greatly on how favorable the river floor’s conditions are for us.”
“We don’t believe we can do the lift on Pentecost Monday,” he added. The tour boat is lying some 9 meters (29 ½ feet) below the surface.
Jasenszky also said the Hableany’s windows and other openings facing the Danube’s current had been closed to prevent any bodies still inside the hull from coming out when the boat is raised.
The Danube’s high springtime water levels, its fast flow and near-zero underwater visibility have greatly hindered recovery efforts.
The captain of the 95-cabin cruise ship, the Viking Sigyn, has been under arrest since June 1, suspected of endangering water transport leading to a deadly mass accident. Budapest police said Saturday the 64-year-old Ukrainian has failed to provide any details about the circumstances of the crash.
Police have said they also questioned 230 people and 66 witnesses about the collision. So far, the cruise ship captain, earlier identified only as Yuriy C., is the only suspect in the case.
The search for the people still missing from the tour boat continued Saturday. A search team from Freiburg, Germany, including dogs trained to find bodies as deep as much as 30 meters (98 feet 5 inches) underwater, is participating.
In neighboring Serbia, where the Danube flows from Hungary, the interior minister said 30 divers and five rescue boats also were taking part in the search.
Most of the bodies were found in Budapest, but others were located elsewhere in the river. The remains of a South Korean man, for example, were recovered 132 kilometers (82 miles) downstream from the Hungarian capital.
Jovana Gec in Belgrade, Serbia, contributed to this report.