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Hungary: Salvage efforts resume at site of sunken tour boat

BUDAPEST, Hungary (AP) — Preparations for salvage efforts of a sunken tour boat in the Danube River have resumed in Budapest on Monday. Divers could be seen entering the water from a pontoon in the river, while empty body bags were visible on a small boat docked next to the pontoon.

The Hableany (Mermaid), a boat carrying South Korean tourists capsized and sank Wednesday night after colliding with a much larger river cruise ship, the Viking Sygin, near the Hungarian Parliament building.

Seven of the 35 people on board have been rescued, with seven confirmed fatalities and 21 people, including 19 South Koreans and the two Hungarian crew members, are still missing. The head of the government agency in charge of coordinating the search and rescue efforts said Hungarian and South Koreans were taking part together in the exploratory dives meant to recover any bodies possible trapped in the wreckage at the Margit Bridge in downtown Budapest, near the parliament building.

"We will do everything except for one thing — entering the boat's wreckage is strictly forbidden," Janos Hajdu said. "It is an absolutely life-threatening maneuver but on this we agree with our partners."

Despite a few test dives last week, the Danube's fast flow, its high springtime water levels and near zero visibility under water have prevented divers from reaching the sunken boat. Hajdu said that a huge floating crane able to lift 200 tons and able to hoist the boat out of the water is expected at the scene within days.

Shun-keun Song, military attache at the South Korean Embassy in Budapest, said relatives of the victims were anxious for news. "If conditions improve ... the Korean divers would like to examine the hull of the boat," he said. "The relatives in Korea are waiting very much for the missing family members to finally appear."

Zoltan Tolnay, captain of a sightseeing boat in Budapest, said he was about a mile south from the site of the collision when it happened. "I didn't hear any communications between the two ships, the Viking and the Hableany, in which they would have talked," Tolnay said. "I didn't hear a warning. I didn't hear any indications."

"What we saw was a boat sinking in complete silence into a grave beneath the waves."

Dusan Stojanovic, Andras Nagy and Bernadette Tomsits contributed to this report.

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