Confirmed fatalities from Danube River tour boat sinking now at 15

Hableany in 2018 (Photo: Pinczes Sandor)
Hableany in 2018 (Photo: Pinczes Sandor)
Hableany in 2018 (Photo: Pinczes Sandor)
Hableany in 2018 (Photo: Pinczes Sandor)

Local authorities in Hungary have confirmed that the official death toll in the May 29 sinking of a sightseeing boat carrying 33 South Korean tourists in the Danube River has now reached 15 after recovery teams pulled eight additional bodies out of the water in the seven days since the incident occurred.

The latest fatality count includes the body of a South Korean male in his fifties that was found more than 50 kilometres south of where the tour boat Hableany sank in Budapest after being struck by the river cruise ship Viking Sigyn.

The Danube's high water level and strong current continue to hamper recovery and salvage efforts. However, Hungarian and South Korean authorities believe that they could start lifting the tour boat's wreck out of the river within the week.

A floating crane has already arrived at the incident site near the Hungarian Parliament building to assist in salvage operations as authorities deliberate on how to raise the wreck while minimising the impact on the hull.

Divers have noted Hableany's amidships section as being heavily damaged. It is believed that any intense pressure applied to the hull as it is being raised would cause the vessel to break in half.

Meanwhile, Viking Sigyn's AIS track as of 18:10 UTC on June 5 shows the river cruise ship sailing back towards Budapest with an estimated arrival in the evening of Thursday, June 6. The ship's owners have so far given no reason as to why it had sailed out of Budapest while the investigation into the collision was still ongoing.

The cruise ship's captain, who has only been identified as a 64-year-old Ukrainian male, was arrested by the Hungarian police late last week for a charge of reckless endangerment in connection with the incident.

Various videos on social media show Viking Sigyn ploughing into Hableany's stern at around 21:00 local time on May 29. The smaller tour boat sank in less than a minute following the collision.

Only seven of the tour boat's 35 occupants have been rescued. Eleven passengers and two Hungarian crewmembers are still missing.

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