Seven people have been confirmed killed, with a further 21 feared dead after a Viking river cruise ship collided with a sightseeing boat on the Danube River in Budapest.
In a statement, Viking Cruises confirmed its ship Sigyn was near a Hungarian tourist boat “when it was involved in an incident” on the river at 9 p.m. local time Wednesday.
CCTV footage reviewed by Hungarian officials suggests the sightseeing boat was at fault, according to police.
The smaller sightseeing boat, Hableany (Mermaid in Hungarian), tried to pass beneath the Margit Bridge ahead of Viking’s river cruise ship.
“Both ships were heading north … and when they arrived between two pillars of the Margit Bridge, for some reason the Hableany turned in front of the Viking ship,” said Police Col. Adrian Pal.
“As the Viking comes into contact with it, it overturns it and in about seven seconds, as it turned on its side, it sank,” he added.
“Several people fell into the water from the Hableany,” Pal told reporters in the Hungarian capital.
Seven people are confirmed dead, and 21 are still missing. Seven others were rescued at the scene. Rescue officials have said there is very little hope of finding any further survivors.
Thirty-three South Korean tourists were aboard the sightseeing boat at the time of the accident, and none of the recovered bodies were wearing lifejackets, according to officials.
A criminal investigation has been launched and Viking Cruises and Panorama Deck boating company, the operators of the sightseeing boat, have said they are cooperating fully with the enquiry.
Relatives of the South Korean tourists are on their way to Budapest, according to the South Korean tour group, Very Good Tour, which organised the group trip.
Very Good Tour company spokesperson Lee Sang-moo said 38 family members would be flown out on Thursday, on four flights, arriving in the Hungarian capital on Friday afternoon and evening.
Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban issued a statement of condolence to the loved ones of the South Korean tourists.
“We are with the victims and their families in our thoughts and prayers in these most difficult times,” his spokesman said, adding that Orban and and President Janos Ader sent their condolences to South Korea.
This accident comes just weeks after another Viking river cruise ship was involved in a collision with an oil tanker, and a few months after one of its ocean-going cruise ships had to be evacuated in heavy seas off the coast of Norway due to engine failure.
The luxury ocean and river cruise company has traditionally maintained an excellent safety record and is well known for its service and quality.