(ATTN: ADDS more details from foreign ministry briefing)
By Kim Seung-yeon
SEOUL, May 30 (Yonhap) -- Seven South Koreans died and 19 others went missing after a tourist boat carrying them capsized in a river in the capital of Hungary late Wednesday (local time).
A total of 33 Koreans and two Hungarian crew members were on the sightseeing boat amid heavy rain, when their ship collided with a larger cruise boat and sank in the Danube river in downtown Budapest at around 9 p.m., the foreign ministry in Seoul said.
Seven people have been rescued and moved to hospital where they are reportedly in stable condition. A search is under way for 19 missing people, it added.
President Moon Jae-in was briefed on the accident and instructed the government to use every possible means to rescue victims, according to presidential spokesperson Ko Min-jung. Moon also ordered the formation of a government-level response team, Ko said.
The foreign ministry said it has set up an interagency government response team, which will be headed by Minister Kang Kyung-wha, to deal with the situation. The government said it will also soon dispatch a team of officials to Hungary, officials said.
Moon postponed a luncheon meeting with civil servants and Kang canceled her planned meeting with Lassina Zerbo, executive secretary of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty Organization.
No further details were known yet as to how and why the accident happened.
Strong currents due to heavy rainfall are making the rescue operations difficult, foreign news reports said.
The 30 tourists were on a six-nation package tour to Eastern Europe. Their trip included stops in the Baltic countries, the travel agency, Verygoodtour, told a press briefing held hours after the accident.
The three others are tour guides, two hired locally and one from Seoul.
Most of them, aged between 40-50, came as families, and its travelers list shows the group includes a six-year-old child and a man in his 70s, a ministry official said.
The travel agency said it's not clear yet whether the passengers were all wearing life vests. All vessels were operating as usual despite the downpour, he said.
The sunken boat, called Hableany, meaning mermaid in Hungarian, was found near a bridge not far from the Hungarian parliament building. The boat was on a routine city sightseeing tour, according to news reports.
Night sightseeing along the Danube river is a popular tourist course for its scenic view of Budapest's landmarks, including the Gothic parliament building and historical Buda Castle.
The South Korean Embassy in Hungary has launched an emergency team for the rescue and other consular efforts, and is closely coordinating with the local authorities, the ministry said.
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