(ATTN: RECASTS headline, lead, paras 2-3 with updates on salvage; UPDATES photo)
BUDAPEST/SEOUL, June 11 (Yonhap) -- The wreck of a sunken tour boat was pulled from the Danube River early Tuesday (Budapest time), nearly two weeks after its deadly sinking left 26 South Koreans dead or missing.
A floating crane raised the Hableany from waters beneath the Margit bridge in downtown Budapest, TV footage showed, raising hopes for finding the bodies of seven South Korean passengers who are still unaccounted for after the May 29 sinking.
Operations to lift the ship began at around 6:30 a.m., local time (1:30 p.m. Korean time).
The sightseeing boat carrying 33 Korean tourists and two Hungarian crew members capsized and sank after colliding with a large Swiss cruise ship. The sinking left 19 Koreans dead and seven others unaccounted for. The Hungarian captain is still missing.
It was expected to take about four hours for the salvage work to be completed, from pulling the wreck out of the river and placing it safely on the barge.
Search operations to find the missing will also continue after the ship is salvaged, Song Shun-keun, a defense attache at the South Korean Embassy in Budapest, said.
South Korean and Hungarian authorities have continued their joint search along the river with divers, helicopters, drones and search dogs. The previous day, they searched areas up to 50 kilometers downstream from the site of the sinking.
Hungarian investigators carried out another search inside the Viking Sigyn, the cruise ship that hit the tourist boat, to obtain additional evidence amid growing criticism that the investigation into the sinking has not been thorough.
Hungarian police allowed the cruise to keep sailing two days after the accident, saying they had obtained enough evidence for the investigation. A Hungarian court has also granted conditional bail for Yuriy C., the cruise captain accused of negligence and carelessness resulting in the deaths.
Criticism arose as it turned out part of the cruise has been repainted in an apparent attempt to conceal and destroy traces of the collision.
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