A six-year-old girl was among seven South Korean tourists who died while 21 remain missing after a sightseeing boat capsized and sank on the River Danube in Budapest.
Rescuers were scrambled to the water outside the Hungarian Parliament building after the Mermaid collided with another tourist boat around 9.15pm on Wednesday.
A total of 33 South Koreans were on board, Seoul’s foreign ministry said, confirming the seven dead were Korean.
They confirmed that none of the passengers were wearing life jackets.
A fire brigade rescue boat takes part in the search operations for survivors on the River Danube in downtown Budapest, Hungary on Thursday morning
National disaster management rescue staff participate in a search operation for survivors in downtown early on Thursday morning
Abrasive damage can be seen on the hull of the Viking hotelship after it struck the other boat
The 86ft tourist boat was also carrying two Hungarian crew members.
The boat started to take on water before it was flipped over and started sinking as heavy storms raged in the Hungarian capital, local media reported.
The wreckage of the Mermaid was found on the riverbed after several hours of searching near the Margaret Bridge, one of the main bridges connecting the two parts of the Hungarian capital, local media said.
Torrential downpours since the start of the month have led to high water levels and a fast-moving current ‘Our services have recorded the death of seven people,’ Pal Gyorfi, a spokesman for Hungarian emergency services, said early Thursday morning.
‘Seven people have been taken to hospital in a stable condition with hypothermia and shock symptoms,’ Gyorfi added.
The Very Good Tour agency senior official Lee Sang-moo (left) bows to make an apology during a press conference at its headquarters in Seoul, South Korea
The Viking hotelship is berthed on the River Danube in downtown Budapest following the collision with the smaller tourist vessel the previous evening
A military ship takes part in the search operations for survivors on the River Danube on Thursday morning
‘A further 21 people are missing,’ a Hungarian police spokesman Kristof Gal told AFP.
‘Police are searching the river throughout the entire length of the Danube in Hungary south of where the incident took place,’ he said.
Local media reported that one of the bodies was found several miles south of the collision location, although Gal declined to confirm.
The temperature of the river water is between 10 and 15 degrees, according to local media.
The search for the missing with the help of divers and police shining lights continued through the night.
Firemen stand at Margit Bridge, where the wreck of a sightseeing boat was found in downtown Hungary
Policemen investigate onboard the Viking hotelship on the River Danube early on Thursday
Emergency services raced to the scene of the accident, which happened during heavy rain
Emergency vehicles are picture on the bank of the Danube in central Budapest after a search for survivors was launched
A film crew working from a bridge south of the accident site also used reflector lights to help light up the water through the gloom and pouring rain, reported local media.
Heavy rainfall since the beginning of May has led to high water levels and a fast-moving river current, complicating rescue efforts.
The accident happened on a popular part of the Danube river for pleasure trips, from where passengers can view the city and parliament building illuminated at night.
The boat was regularly serviced and had no apparent technical faults, Mihaly Toth, a spokesman for Panorama Deck that owned the vessel, told the Hungarian news agency MTI.
‘It was a routine sightseeing trip,’ said Toth.
‘We know nothing about how it happened, the authorities are investigating, all we know is that it sank quickly,’ he said.
An eye-witness told the Index.hu news-site that the Mermaid, which could hold 60 people on board, had been hit from behind by a large cruise boat.
Policemen and fire crews are pictured on the bank of the Danube as rain fell on Wednesday night
At least seven people have died and 21 are missing after the sightseeing boat they were on sunk in the River Danube in Budapest yesterday evening
A rescue boat sits by a jetty on the River Danube waiting to be dispatched to search for survivors
Police and rescue crews peer over the edge of a bridge over the River Danube as their colleagues searched the water for survivors
Web camera footage from a hotel rooftop posted on local news-sites appeared to show the bigger boat colliding with the Mermaid.
Access to the river has been blocked by the authorities, according to public television.
South Korea’s President Moon Jae-in instructed the government to ‘deploy all available resources’ for the rescue, the presidential office said.
The incident happened in the water opposite the Hungarian Parliament building (pictured)
Seoul planned to send a team of 18 officials to assist the Hungarian authorities in Budapest, South Korea’s Yonhap news agency reported.
Embassy staff have also been assisting the emergency services in the identification of victims.
The Hungarian interior and health ministers visited the scene to express condolences to the families of the victims.