Hungarian rescuers 'not far' from lifting tour boat wreckage

Hungarian rescuers 'not far' from lifting tour boat wreckage

The barge was to be handed over to police as part of their investigation into the nighttime collision, which took place during heavy rain.

Divers have periodically been entering the vessel to search the bodies of any victims still inside.

South Korean tourist Lee Seung Hwan, who was next to the river, said: "I sincerely hope the missing bodies can be retrieved and brought back to their families to rest".

Hungarian rescue officials said Monday they have almost completed their preparations to start the hard process of raising a sunken tour boat from the floor of the Danube River.

Rescue personnel could be seen early Tuesday on a barge next to the partially raised boat, carrying stretchers, each with a body bag on them.

Mermaid was a 27-metre (89-feet) double-decker river cruise boat with a 150-horsepower engine and had a capacity to hold up to 60 people.

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At one point, one member of the rescue crew fell into the fast-flowing water and had to be rescued after nearly being swept away.

Eight people are still missing from the May 29 collision between the Hableany (Mermaid) sightseeing boat and the Viking Sigyn river cruise ship at Budapest's Margit Bridge.

Seven people were rescued and seven bodies quickly recovered but many of those on board the Mermaid were swept away in the swollen river.

Rescue officials said Sunday that preparations for the lift, including divers installing four wire harnesses under the Hableany (Mermaid), were almost complete, with some technical and security details pending.

Recovery efforts by Hungarian and South Korean teams have been hampered by high water levels in the Danube.

The cruise ship's captain - identified only as Yuriy C.in line with Hungarian laws - has been under arrest since June 1, suspected of endangering water transport leading to a deadly mass accident. It left Budapest less than 48 hours after the collision and has since returned to Hungary on a scheduled trip in Visegrad, north of Budapest, according to police.

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