At least four more bodies have been recovered as salvage crews raised the wreck of a tourist boat that sank on the Danube in Budapest last month. Divers entered the boat as a floating crane slowly brought it to the surface. The Mermaid was carrying South Korean tourists when it was in collision with a cruise ship and capsized, leaving 20 people dead and eight others missing.
Recovery efforts by Hungarian and South Korean teams have been hampered by high water levels in the Danube.
Footage from the scene on Tuesday morning showed the cabin and upper deck of the boat emerge from the water and divers then carry out a search for victims still trapped inside.
Pumps then removed water from the hull and the rest of the 70-year-old boat was slowly brought to the surface. The whole operation is expected to take several hours.
The bodies recovered were believed to be those of three South Koreans and the Hungarian captain, South Korea’s Yonhap news agency quoted officials as saying.
The Viking Sigyn cruise ship struck the Mermaid just after 21:00 local time (19:00 GMT) on 29 May as both vessels passed under the Margit Bridge.
Seven of the 35 people on board were rescued and several bodies quickly recovered, but others were swept away in the swollen river or trapped inside the boat.
Police said the boat had sunk within seven seconds of the collision.
“The current was so fast and people were floating away,” one survivor, identified only by her surname Jung, told Yonhap.
More bodies were recovered in the following days, with one pulled from the Danube more than 100km (60 miles) downstream. Nineteen South Korean tourists and a Hungarian crewman are known to have died.
It was the worst disaster on the Danube – Europe’s second-longest river – in more than 50 years.
Once fully out of the water, the wreck of the Mermaid will be taken to a secure location and examined by police, who have launched a criminal investigation.
The Viking Sigyn’s captain, named as 64-year-old Ukrainian national Yuriy C, has been detained on suspicion of reckless misconduct in waterborne traffic leading to mass casualties.
South Korean President Moon Jae-in has said his government will co-operate with Hungarian authorities “to thoroughly investigate the incident”.