S.Korean divers launch operation to recover missing in Hungary boat accident


South Korean divers in Hungary prepared on Monday for an attempt to reach the wreck of a pleasure boat which had been carrying mostly South Korean tourists when it sank in the Danube last week, killing at least seven people.

Another 19 Koreans and two Hungarians are missing and presumed dead following the collision of The Mermaid tourist boat and a larger cruise liner in heavy rain on Wednesday in the worst accident on the river in over half a century.

A flood has prevented Hungarian divers from reaching the wreck or recovering other bodies, prompting South Korea to send its own recovery team which took over the operation on Monday with help from Hungarian personnel.

Early on Monday, a diver was being prepared by a team on a barge while South Korean rescue personnel manned several rubber speedboats on the fast flowing river.

“The (dive) will be put into operation from 8:00 (local time) today to test the possibility of underwater work as soon as the preparations are completed,” the South Korean rescue team said in a statement “The point of entry is on the barge located at the scene of the accident. Today, diving is not about attempting to enter the ship, but for understanding the situation first.”

The South Korean rescue team plans to recover bodies while the shipwreck is still on the river bed, having overruled Hungary’s proposal to lift the hull out of the water first.

“Hungary offered salvaging the ship first,” Korean defense attaché Shun-Keun Song told a briefing on Sunday. “(But) during that operation the ship can be damaged or there is a chance to lose the remains of the dead.”

Citing Korea’s 2014 Sewol ferry disaster in which hundreds of people were killed, the diplomat said Korea had suggested to dive first.

“We told the Hungarians about our plan and Hungary agreed to it.”

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