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(LEAD) S. Korean team's search inside salvaged wreck being delayed

All Headlines 23:47 June 12, 2019

(ATTN: CHANGES dateline, headline, lead; UPDATES throughout with delay of Korean officials' entry into ship)

SEOUL/BUDAPEST, June 12 (Yonhap) -- South Korean rescue workers were not able to enter a salvaged tour boat Wednesday to search for Koreans missing from a deadly sinking on the Danube River, as Hungarian authorities have not yet approved a joint investigation, the government said.

Hungarian authorities lifted the Hableany sightseeing boat from underwater on Tuesday (Budapest time) and placed it on a barge, nearly two weeks after the accident.

Rescue teams retrieved four more bodies over the course of the salvaging. Three of them were confirmed to be Koreans, including the six-year-old girl who was the only minor aboard the ship. The other was the Hungarian captain.

The foreign ministry in Seoul earlier said that Korean officials would enter the wreck at about 10 a.m. (5 p.m. Korean time) and carry out another search for the missing, but the entry is being delayed.

"The Hungarian government said our officials will be able to join the operation after they review related law and conclude that there will be no problem," Song Shun-keun, a defense attache at the South Korean Embassy in Budapest, said during a press briefing.

"The Hungarian authorities said the captain of the cruise ship could raise an issue regarding preservation of the boat," Song said, apparently referring to the possible impact on the admissibility of evidence found from the boat once South Korea is involved in the search.

Previously, the government said they had persuaded Hungarian authorities to let Koreans work inside the ship, stressing that its intent is to find the missing passengers.

But the Hungarian government carried out its independent investigation of the salvaged ship Wednesday.

"We'll continue to work together with Hungarian authorities on the search even after the salvaging," the ministry earlier said in a release.

The tour boat, carrying 33 Korean tourists and two Hungarian crew members, capsized and sank after colliding with a large Swiss cruise ship on May 29. So far, 22 South Koreans have been confirmed dead and four remain missing. Seven were rescued right after the accident.

The boat was taken on the barge to nearby Csepel Island, south of Budapest, for further analysis by local police as part of the ongoing investigation into the accident.

Meanwhile, a Hungarian court turned down prosecutors' appeal against its decision to release the Ukrainian captain of the cruise ship on bail. The prosecutors notified South Korea of the court's decision earlier in the day.

The captain, identified as Yuriy C, was arrested earlier this month, but the court decided to release him on the condition of paying 15 million forint (US$53,000). The court also ordered the captain to undergo police questioning twice every week.

Hungarian workers undo the wires used in the salvaging of the Hableany tour boat raised from the Danube River in Budapest the previous day, nearly two weeks after the deadly sinking that left 22 South Koreans dead and four missing, in this photo taken on June 11, 2019. (Yonhap)

elly@yna.co.kr
(END)

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