The collision took place at 9:05 p.m., according to Col. Adrian Pal, a police official, and emergency responders arrived at the site shortly before 9:30 p.m.
“Based on our information, there were 35 people on board” the Hableany, he said, using the Hungarian name for the boat. “Two individuals were Hungarian, the captain and a crewman, and 33 were South Korean,” he added. “Of the 33, two were tour guides, and 31 were tourists.”
Hungary has seen an explosion in foreign tourism in recent years, with nearly 31 million guest nights recorded in 2018, an increase of more than one million compared with the previous year’s, according to government statistics. Budapest, the Hungarian capital known for its grand boulevards, thermal spas and baroque architecture, is one of Central Europe’s treasures and is the country’s biggest draw.
The city is divided by the Danube into the hilly Buda neighborhood on the west — adorned by a castle overlooking the river — and Pest to east, home to the Parliament building. The Margaret Bridge, which was built between 1872 and 1876, stretches more than 2,000 feet and connects the two sides of the city, along with a small island in the middle of the river.
It was the site of an accidental explosion in 1944, killing at least 600 people, when the city was occupied by the Nazis. As the Germans fled in 1945, they destroyed all the bridges connecting the city. The Margaret Bridge was rebuilt after the war and recently restored.
Europe’s second-longest river, the Danube stretches nearly 1,800 miles as it snakes its way from Germany to Ukraine and into the Black Sea. Sightseeing ships are a big draw. In Budapest, some of the ships simply pass through on extended cruises. Others, like the Mermaid, set out for short excursions lasting a few hours.
On a normal afternoon, the popular stretch of the Danube in Central Budapest where the crash took place would be bustling with ships. On Thursday, the river bank was transformed into a triage unit, in case more survivors were found by the emergency workers scouring the river and the lands on either side. Rescue crews patrolled the entire stretch of the Danube south of Budapest.