Rescue team is searching for missing tourists from the sunken cruise boat on Danube River in Budapest. [EPA=Yonhap News Agency]
South Koreans and the stock market mourned and held their breath as 19 of their nationals remain missing from a boat crash in Hungry on Wednesday evening that claimed at least seven lives.
Hableany, a 27-meter (89-feet) double-decker river cruise boat with 33 Koreans including 30 tourists, two guides, one photographer and two Hungarian crew on board, collided with a larger cruise ship on Danube River in the heart of Budapest, the Hungarian capital, during a rainstorm on Wednesday evening (local time). Just seven seconds after the collision, Hableany tipped over and sank, according to the Korean Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Thursday.
The accident caused mass casualties with seven Koreans dead and 21 missing.
A full-fledged rescue mission is underway but so far only seven Koreans have been rescued as heavy rain and strong currents in the river are making the search difficult. It is reported that the passengers were not wearing life jackets at the time of the accident, causing greater casualties.
The Korean group had been on a package tour of Europe organized by Very Good Tour agency. The group included a six-year-old girl and 71-year-old man, who still remain missing, according to the tour agency.
The Kosdaq-listed travel agency as well as other tourism stocks were shaken by the tragic news.
Very Good Tour agency, which arranged the group tour for the Koreans onboard the ill-fated boat, lost 5.7 percent on Thursday to finish at 6,920 won ($5.81).
After the accident was reported, the mid-sized tourism company based in Seoul has been bombarded with calls demanding cancellation for their booked trips. Shares of its parent Samchuly Bicycle Co. also fell 2.5 percent to 5,840 won on Thursday. On Friday, shares of Very Good Tour fell further to 6,860 won while Samchuly Bicycle recovered to 5,960 won.
Lee Sang-moo, executive vice president of Very Good Tour, is delivering updates on the Hungary boat accident and rescue operation at a press conference held in Seoul on Thursday. [By Kim Ho-young].
The tourism stocks have struggled recently as Koreans have refrained from traveling to foreign countries due to falling disposable income in line with the slowing economy and high unemployment. The boat accident in Hungary will likely let more people stay away from overseas trips for a while, market analysts said.
The agency vowed for full-fledged support for those rescued and the families of those affected by the accident on top of compensation, while the Korean government focuses on rescuing and searching those still missing. The travel agency has arranged for the family members of the tourists to travel to Hungary.
Korean presidential Blue House said President Moon Jae-in and Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban have discussed joint rescue operation. It is reported that more than 200 divers and medical staffs are involved in the rescue efforts. Korean rescue teams and government officials including foreign minister are heading to the accident site in Hungary to provide necessary support to those affected by the accident.
By Ahn Jeong-hoon and Cho Jeehyun
[ⓒ Pulse by Maeil Business Newspaper & mk.co.kr, All rights reserved]