What do the Koreans think of Hungary

MY EAST BLOGGER YEAR Is mass tourism to blame? - Ship accident in Hungary

At the time of the accident, on May 29th at 9:05 p.m., I was having dinner with my family. We were on vacation abroad and didn't follow the evening's news from home. It wasn't until the next morning that we saw what had happened on the Danube, in front of the Margaret Bridge in the center of Budapest. The online media was full of shocking headlines about the sunken tourist boat "Hableány". It was reported that only seven of the 35 people on board the excursion boats could be rescued. Everyone else had drowned. And everyone always asked the same question: who is to blame for the disaster? We just couldn't believe it. There has never been anything like it in Hungary. How did this pointless tragedy happen?

A tragedy out of the blue

I recently spoke to Anikó Steimetz, the camerawoman for a Hungarian online news portal, about the accident. She was one of the first journalists to try to find the scene of the accident based on police reports. To this day it is difficult for her to think about that evening. "The weather was very bad," she says. "It was pouring rain, it was very cold and dark. We didn't know exactly where to look or what. While we were walking down the bank in the center, the message came that people were in the water and that there were probably many dead Then we walked with colleagues along the Danube to the Rákóczi Bridge. There we suddenly saw divers pulling two black bags out of the water. Then I realized that something indescribably terrible must have happened. "

Later it turned out that the excursion boat "Hableány", with 33 South Korean tourists and two Hungarian crew members on board, had just returned from an evening sightseeing tour and was only a few hundred meters away from the port when the brand new hotel ship " Viking Sigyn "crashed. The little excursion boat sank within a few seconds. Seven passengers were rescued because they were on deck at the time of the accident and fell into the water. All the others were considered missing.

Divers as heroes

In the days that followed, personal stories of the casualties dominated the front pages of the newspapers. But also the work of rescue divers moved into the spotlight. Professionals from Hungary and later also from Austria, the Czech Republic and South Korea worked for days to the point of total exhaustion. Despite the high water level of the Danube and a very strong current, they tried practically blindly to find the missing people and to examine the sunken wreck.

"We journalists felt somehow responsible to the South Koreans, I think like all Hungarians," continues the camerawoman Steimetz. "Each of us wanted to find the missing tourists so that the relatives could at least organize a funeral and say goodbye. It was worst when a mother and her six-year-old daughter were found. We saw the little sack and everyone knew immediately." The wreck itself could only be recovered after two weeks.

Selfies instead of bridges

For days the authorities puzzled as to how this accident could even come about. With the help of recordings from surveillance cameras and the black box of the hotel ship, it later became clear that it rammed the small excursion boat and literally pushed it down. The 64-year-old Ukrainian captain of the hotel ship was then arrested for endangering shipping traffic with fatal consequences. According to the indictment, which was only presented in November, he should not have been at his post immediately before the clash, instead taking selfies with the passengers, among other things. That's why he didn't see the little tourist boat. He is also said to have failed to help the people in the water. If convicted, the captain faces at least nine years' imprisonment.

ShipTaus in the center of Budapest

The tragedy has again raised the question of whether there are too many ships in the center of Budapest. Above all, many tourists want to admire the illuminated city center from the Danube. That is why the evening sightseeing tours with dinner and music are very popular. It often happens that up to 70 ships are en route at the same time on the four-kilometer stretch of the Danube, including not only small boats but also multi-story river cruise ships, as in the case of the tragedy. The then Lord Mayor of Budapest István Tarlós mentioned in an interview that it should be checked whether the large hotel ships are allowed to anchor in the city center or should not be relocated outside. However, this idea went without a response, and nobody from the tourism or shipping industry took up it. No wonder, after all, there is a lot of money at stake here. However, since October 2019 Budapest has a new mayor. I am curious whether he will take up this topic again.