Sinking of Hableány

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Sinking of Hableány
D11 boat southbound.jpg
Hableány seen in April 2017
Date29 May 2019; 8 days ago (2019-05-29)
Time9:00PM CEST (UTC+2)
LocationDanube, Budapest, Hungary
Coordinates47°30′50″N 19°02′42″E / 47.51389°N 19.04500°E / 47.51389; 19.04500Coordinates: 47°30′50″N 19°02′42″E / 47.51389°N 19.04500°E / 47.51389; 19.04500
CauseCollision with another vessel
Location of collision in Budapest:
Collision site is located in Budapest
Collision site
Collision site

Hableány ([?h?bl?a??]; Hungarian for 'Mermaid') was a 27-metre (89 ft) river cruiser operated by Panorama Deck on the Danube river in Budapest, Hungary. She had two decks and a capacity of 45 people when operating as a sightseeing vessel.[1] On the evening of 29 May 2019, the ship was travelling upstream on the Danube in Budapest with 35 people on board when the 135-metre (443 ft) Viking Sigyn collided with her under the Margaret Bridge near the Parliament Building.[2]

The tourists onboard Hableány were from South Korea, with the majority on a planned tour by a South Korean company.[2] Seven survivors were rescued at the scene. 19 victims have been found dead, while 8 passengers and 1 of the two Hungarian crew members remain missing.[3][4][5][6][7]


Hableány was a 27-metre (89 ft) river cruise boat with two open decks and a capacity of 45 passengers for sightseeing and 60 passengers for other configurations. She was built in the Soviet Union in 1949 and had her engine replaced in 1980 by a Hungarian company.[8] She was acquired by Panorama Deck in 2003 and had been used for regular cruises on the Danube since then.[9]

Viking Sigyn is a 135-metre (443 ft) hotelship operated by Swiss-based Viking River Cruises.[5] She has four decks with 95 rooms and can carry 190 passengers.[10] The ship was christened in March 2019 and placed on the company's Danube routes.[11]


Viking Sigyn, operated by Viking Cruises, seen a day after the collision

At approximately 21:05 local time on 29 May 2019, Hableány was clipped from behind by Viking Sigyn while crossing under the Margaret Bridge near the Parliament Building on a 457-metre-wide (500 yd) section of the Danube. Hableány had 35 people on board at the time of the collision, including the Hungarian captain and crewman, two South Korean tour guides, and 31 South Korean tourists ranging in age from 6 to 72.[12] The tourists were on a two-week excursion of eastern Europe organized by the Seoul-based Very Good Tour company.[8]

Following a review of CCTV footage from a nearby vantage point, state police stated that Hableány had tipped on her side while under the Margaret Bridge.[12] The vessel had been moving towards the riverbank to prepare for disembarking and steered slightly left into the path of Viking Sigyn, which had been traveling parallel to Hableány.[13] The rescued passengers had not been wearing life vests, while another South Korean tourist said that cruise boats arranged by tour companies often lacked them.[8] All seven of the rescued survivors had been thrown from the upper observation deck.[14]

Rescue and recovery efforts[edit]

Search operations under the Margaret Bridge

Police and ambulance services arrived at the collision site approximately ten minutes later at 21:15, shortly after being notified of an overturned boat.[4] Search and rescue efforts began immediately, with several spotlights brought to the site and over 200 divers and medical personnel arriving within hours. Search and rescue efforts were complicated by the high water level of the Danube, which had swelled significantly due to several days of heavy rainfall, by high winds and by water temperatures of 10 to 12 °C (50 to 54 °F).[4][12] The fast-moving water, reaching speeds of 9 to 11 kilometres per hour (5.6 to 6.8 mph), caused limited visibility underwater and prevented divers from searching inside the wreckage of Hableány to recover more bodies.[13][15]

Seven of the South Korean tourists were rescued from the water and taken to local hospitals where they were treated for hypothermia and shock.[1] Most were later released.[1] Seven bodies were also pulled from the river, which were identified using finger and palm prints;[16] 19 tourists and the two crewmembers remain missing.[17] Several of the rescued passengers were found further downstream, including one at the Pet?fi Bridge approximately 3 kilometres (2 mi) south;[4] one of the recovered bodies was found 12 kilometres (7.5 mi) downstream almost 2.5 hours after the collision.[13]

The first major diving operation began five days after the collision and ended with the discovery of an eighth body that was recovered by Korean divers. Janos Hajdu, the head of the Counter Terrorism Centre coordinating the search and rescue efforts told reporters that the divers will do everything in their power to search for bodies and survivors but entering the wreckage was forbidden, as they had deemed it life-threatening.[18] Another body was found on the same day in Harta, 110 kilometres (68 mi) downstream from Budapest, by local police.[19]

In the morning of 4 June, the sixth day, the body recovered from the wreck one day prior, was identified by the police as a Korean woman, making her the ninth known victim of the accident. After a six-hour-long diving operation, the tenth victim was raised from the ship.[20] Police also reported that they had found and identified the eleventh passenger at the town of Kulcs.[3][21] The twelfth passenger had been found at Adony.[22]

The plan of the authorities is to use Clark ádám, a crane vessel with a 200-ton lift capacity, to lift the sunken ship from the bottom of the Danube. The arrival of the crane ship was delayed by the flooding of the river: due to its size, the equipment was unable to pass under several bridges until water levels had decreased. It wasn't until a week after the disaster that the floating crane arrived in Budapest from its home port of Komárom, but it will not be in position for the lifting until it can pass under the Margaret Bridge, which requires the water level to drop below 4.1 metres (13 ft).[23] TEK announced that they had recovered another passenger from the wreck.[24] Later that night a police statement explained that the body of a female passenger had been retrieved from the Danube in the afternoon, close to the site of the accident, and another had been found and identified at Ercsi. According to the statement, 11 passengers and the two crew members were still missing.[25]

Response and investigation[edit]

South Korean President Moon Jae-in convened an emergency meeting and directed the government to send emergency rescue workers to aid the Hungarian effort, including several rescue experts who had worked on the Sewol disaster in 2014.[9][12] President Moon spoke to Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orbán about the situation by telephone, thanking him for his country's efforts while Orbán pledged full cooperation and support.[17] South Korean foreign minister Kang Kyung-wha travelled to Budapest and will visit the survivors along with relatives of passengers on the tour.[15]

Hungarian police also launched a criminal investigation into the collision. The captain of Viking Sigyn, a 64-year-old Ukrainian, was interviewed and arrested the following day on suspicion of causing a mass-casualty incident while operating a boat.[26] On May 31 the Ministry of Interior announced that attempts to lift and recover Hableány during the first two days had been unsuccessful and that it was seeking new ways to search the lower deck for trapped passengers.[27]

A week after the accident, the Hungarian embassy in Seoul announced that relatives of the victims and members of the Korean authorities could travel free of charge between Seoul and Budapest, in cooperation with LOT Polish Airlines.[28]


  1. ^ a b c . BBC News. 29 May 2019. Retrieved 29 May 2019.
  2. ^ a b . CNN. 29 May 2019. Retrieved 29 May 2019.
  3. ^ a b Kovács, Dávid (4 June 2019). [Latest victim of the Hableány disaster found at Kulcs]. (in Hungarian). Retrieved 4 June 2019. A further victim of the tragedy of the Mermaid cruise ship on Wednesday, this time at Kulcs in Fejér County, writes This is the eleventh found body
  4. ^ a b c d Novak, Benjamin (29 May 2019). . The New York Times. Retrieved 29 May 2019.
  5. ^ a b Dunai, Marton (29 May 2019). . Reuters. Retrieved 29 May 2019.
  6. ^ . (in Hungarian). Retrieved 4 June 2019.
  7. ^ . 6 Juni 2019. Check date values in: |date= (help)
  8. ^ a b c Park Chan-kyong (30 May 2019). 'No life jackets': 7 South Korean tourists dead, 21 missing in Hungary pleasure boat tragedy". South China Morning Post. Retrieved 30 May 2019.
  9. ^ a b Saling, Gergo; Denyer, Simon (30 May 2019). . The Washington Post. Retrieved 30 May 2019.
  10. ^ . Agence France-Presse. 30 May 2019. Retrieved 30 May 2019.
  11. ^ (Press release). Viking Cruises. 19 March 2019. Retrieved 30 May 2019 – via PR Newswire.
  12. ^ a b c d Novak, Benjamin; Santora, Marc; Choe Sang-hun (30 May 2019). . The New York Times. Retrieved 30 May 2019.
  13. ^ a b c . Los Angeles Times. Associated Press. 30 May 2019. Retrieved 30 May 2019.
  14. ^ [Danube ship disaster press conference] (in Hungarian). Hír TV. Retrieved 30 May 2019.
  15. ^ a b . BBC News. 30 May 2019. Retrieved 30 May 2019.
  16. ^ . Al Jazeera. 1 June 2019. Retrieved 1 June 2019.
  17. ^ a b Kim Seung-yeon (30 May 2019). . Yonhap. Retrieved 30 May 2019.
  18. ^ Gorondi, Pablo (3 June 2019). . The Washington Post. Retrieved 4 June 2019.
  19. ^ . South China Morning Post. Agence France-Presse. 4 June 2019. Retrieved 4 June 2019.
  20. ^ TEG (4 June 2019). . (in Hungarian). Retrieved 4 June 2019.
  21. ^ . (in Hungarian). Retrieved 4 June 2019.
  22. ^ . Daily News Hungary. 5 June 2019. Retrieved 5 June 2019.
  23. ^ . (in Hungarian). 5 June 2019. Retrieved 5 June 2019.
  24. ^ . Hungary Today. 5 June 2019. Retrieved 5 June 2019.
  25. ^ . (in Hungarian). Retrieved 5 June 2019. In the afternoon of June 5, 2019, the bodies of the Danube highlighted at the Margaret Bridge and Ercs were identified. The two women who have been missing so far are two more South Korean victims of a shipwreck on May 29, 2019
  26. ^ [The captain of the hotel ship was detained]. (in Hungarian). Retrieved 3 June 2019.
  27. ^ Novak, Benjamin; Karasz, Palko (31 May 2019). . The New York Times. Retrieved 31 May 2019.
  28. ^ . Retrieved 5 June 2019.

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