South Korea will ask Hungary to swiftly determine the cause of a deadly boat sinking and those responsible, a senior diplomat said Sunday, as search operations continued after the sinking that left 26 Koreans dead or missing.
Second Vice Foreign Minister Lee Tae-ho made the remark during a government disaster management meeting, noting that the captain of a cruise ship, which collided with the sightseeing boat and caused it to sink, has been arrested on charges of negligence and carelessness.
A berated family looks at the Danube river. (Yonhap)
"We will call on Hungarian authorities to investigate the cause of the accident and determine who was responsible in a swift manner," Lee said.
On Wednesday (local time), the decades-old Hableany, carrying 33 South Koreans and two Hungarian crew members, capsized and sank soon after being hit from behind by the Swiss-registered Viking Sigyn. The collision left seven Koreans dead and 21 people missing, 19 of whom are Korean.
Lee said that the government will do its best to hold funeral procedures for the victims.
"Last night, identities of the dead were confirmed by bereaved family members," he said. "We will listen to the bereaved families and smoothly carry out funeral procedures in cooperation with the travel agency."
Family members of South Korean victims have arrived in Budapest to receive updates on rescue efforts.
Joint rescue operations by South Korean and Hungarian authorities are under way, but have faced setbacks amid strong currents and high waters. No additional survivors have yet been found.
The South Korean team, consisting of staff from the Navy and fire agency, have conducted surface-level searches up to 50 kilometers down the Danube River from the site of Wednesday's disaster with the Hungarian rescue team but without success.
The government plans to carry out underwater operations in the river Monday, though the Hungarian authorities have yet to approve the plan.
The Hungarian government is known to have expressed a preference for salvage operations due to security concerns.
If the circumstances are not created for underwater operations, the Hungarian government will likely begin to salvage the boat as early as Thursday.
Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha, who returned to Seoul from Budapest on Sunday, said the Hungarian government is considering installing a structure around the sunken vessel to keep any contents of the ship from slipping out.
"We've been asking them to set up nets to prevent any loss from the boat, but the conditions are too bad for divers to get into the water," Kang told reporters upon arrival at Incheon International Airport. "They are mulling a plan to set up a structure around it."
She said it will take more time to begin work on pulling the sunken ship out of the water because of the strong currents of the Danube.
Kang had been in Budapest since Friday to oversee the South Korean team's search operations and ensure coordination with Hungary. She met with her Hungarian counterpart, Peter Szijjarto, and Interior Minister Sandor Pinter during the three-day visit.
The captain of the Swiss cruise ship, identified as Yuriy C, was formally arrested on Saturday after a Hungarian court issued an arrest warrant on charges of negligence and carelessness over the accident.
The captain was initially detained and questioned by Hungarian police right after the sinking of the tourist boat Hableany on the Danube River on Wednesday.
"The South Korean government will ask the Hungarian authorities to conduct a fair and speedy investigation into the accident," the vice minister said. (Yonhap)