Captain charged over Budapest river cruise ship tragedy

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Rescuers search for the wreck of a passenger boat in downtown Budapest, Hungary, May 30, 2019. A ship, the "Hableany" (Mermaid in English) carrying 33 South Korean tourists and two Hungarian crew collided with another vessel, a large Swiss hotel boat (type Viking) and sank in the Danube in the evening on Wednesday. At least seven died in the accident. (Xinhua/Attila Volgyi)

BUDAPEST (AFP) – The captain of a river cruise ship that collided with a smaller sightseeing vessel was charged Saturday over the accident in Budapest that killed seven South Korean tourists and left 21 missing.

The Mermaid carrying mainly South Korean tourists overturned and sank late Wednesday, seconds after colliding with the Viking Sigyn cruise ship on a busy stretch of the Danube in the heart of Budapest.

Strong currents have hampered the search for those missing — 19 South Koreans and two Hungarians — preventing divers from reaching the submerged boat.

The Sigyn’s Ukrainian captain was charged Saturday, a Budapest court official told AFP, but gave no further details.

The 64-year-old was detained Thursday for questioning for “endangering waterborne traffic resulting in multiple deaths”, police have said.

The captain’s lawyer, Balazs Toth, said the court had granted bail, but prosecutors were appealing and so his client remained detained.

Serbia, Romania and Croatia – countries along the Danube, south of Hungary – have been asked to help in the search after South Korean Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha insisted in Budapest on Friday her country would not give up hope of finding survivors.

One of the bodies had been found about 11 kilometres (seven miles) downstream of the accident site.

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