Commentary Boat tragedy

The most difficult river salvage operation ever in Hungary

More than a week has passed since the Hableány (Mermaid) sightseeing boat was ran over by a large river cruiser and sank in seven seconds, with 33 South Korean tourists and two Hungarian crew aboard.

Seven tourist were rescued and many bodies recovered, but 13 (including the Hungarian crew) are still listed as missing. Mandiner looks at the challenges of what it said is the “most complex event that could occur on the Danube”.

“The conditions down there are quite literally infernal,” a former naval officer who did not wish to be identified told Mandiner. “The salvage divers have to walk on the river bed to reach the shipwreck, wearing 100 kg of equipment.”

Boat

The source said divers must walk across the various metal and stone debris accumulated in the river bed over the decades, while the 15 km/h current keeps throwing flotsam at them, and every now and then one or more of the tethers they haul along (one each for security, air and communications) will get caught up in something.

Every time that happens, a separate rescue team on standby will dive after them to free the tethers. Due to the strong current visibility is zero and the divers have to make their way by touch only, which in itself is an almost impossible task given the heavy and bulky equipment they wear. The leaded boots alone weigh 20 kilograms and the metal helmet another 15.

The source said that because the divers are now searching for the remains of the missing, the first priority is to prevent further loss of life. Fortunately, the rescue divers have suffered no accidents so far.

Title image: Diving teams preparing to lift the wreckage of the sightseeing boat Hableány from the Danube (source: Árpád Földházi, Mandiner

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