Before Fatal Boat Crash in Budapest, Safety Warnings Went Unheeded

BUDAPEST — The warnings came before a ship called the Mermaid set out on May 29 in driving rain for a nighttime tour of Budapest. Before the much larger Viking Sigyn struck the Mermaid, capsizing and sinking it in seconds. Before 28 people died in Hungary’s worst boating accident in at least six decades.Traffic on the Danube had soared to dangerous levels, and in particular, there were far too many tourist ships. Ship captains and official reports tried to sound alarms, but the government refused to impose new limits.“City officials were warned about the dangers of too much traffic,” said Gabor Demszky, the mayor of Budapest from 1990 to 2010. “But they failed to act. It is a very profitable business.”The accident has raised concerns that, at the municipal and national levels, where tourism has become a major source of revenue for Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s government and its allies, political calculations and the drive for profit outweighed safety concerns.
Either the national government, whose tourism agency grants permits to sightseeing vessels, or the city, which controls Budapest’s docks, could limit the number of ships and boats operating there. Both declined to comment.On Tuesday, a floating crane slowly lifted the Mermaid to the surface, and divers recovered four bodies from the wreck. The vessel carried 33 tourists from South Korea and two crew members; only seven of those aboard survived, and several of the victims have still not been found.
ImageFour bodies were recovered from the Mermaid on Tuesday.CreditMarton Monus/EPA, via Shutterstock

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