Rescue teams working to salvage wrecked Hableány (Mermaid), which sank in the River Danube after colliding with a large cruise ship last Wednesday, will have to wait a few more days before a suitably large crane arrives at the site of the disaster near Margit (Margaret) Bridge in central Budapest, the head of Hungary’s counter-terrorism force TEK, which is in charge of the operation, told a press conference on Monday.
János Hajdu said the crane, which could lift 200 tonnes, could not at present be shipped to the site under the bridges due to high water levels.
He said the wrecked sightseeing boat, lying at a depth of nine metres, was over 27 metres long and weighed 50 tonnes.
Hajdu said that divers first attempted to approach the wreck on May 30, but added that the swift current of the flooding river and “practically zero centimetre sighting distance” in the 12-15 Celsius water made their work nearly impossible. He added that divers are forbidden to enter the wreck for their own safety.
The salvage operation, assisted by a 54-strong South Korean team and Austrian experts, will focus on lifting the wreck out of the water in one piece, he said.
Shunkeun Song and János Hajdu. Photo by Zsolt Szigetváry/MTI.
Shunkeun Song, defence attache at the South Korean embassy in Budapest, thanked the Hungarian government for its assistance and Hungarians for expressing their sympathy over the accident. The diplomat said that families of the victims were eager to receive information and asked Hungarian authorities for permission to South Korean divers to enter the wreck. He voiced agreement with Hajdu, at the same time, that protecting the lives of divers was paramount.
At least seven people died in last Wednesday’s accident, while seven others, rescued from the water, were taken to hospital with light injuries. Twenty-one others are still missing. The Hableány was carrying a group of 33 South Korean tourists and a two-strong Hungarian crew when it collided with the cruise ship and sank.
The Ukrainian captain of Viking Sigyn, a Swiss cruise ship, has been detained.