Hungary police lift capsized tourist boat from river

A picture taken on June 11, 2019 shows rescue teams working during the operations to pull out the sank Mermaid sightseeing boat on the Danube river in Budapest. (AFP)

Hungarian police Tuesday began lifting a sightseeing vessel that sank in the river Danube in Budapest last month in an accident that has claimed at least 20 lives with eight people still missing.

An hour after the lifting operation began at around 6am the command bridge and upper deck of the boat appeared. Soon after, police were seen by an AFP photographer at the site removing bodies from the vessel.

The Mermaid tourist boat was carrying mostly South Korean holidaymakers when it capsized and sank on May 29 seconds after colliding with a bigger river cruise boat on a busy stretch of the river.

Only seven of the 35 people on board are known to have survived the accident, with the prospect of finding any more passengers alive seen as practically zero.

Those missing include a six-year-old girl as well as the Mermaid's Hungarian captain.

Hungarian police who are leading the salvage operation said that the lifting operation could take six hours, and would be phased to allow divers to search the vessel for any victims still inside.

Since the accident divers had been unable to enter the submerged boat due to the strong current in a river swollen from weeks of rain.

The salvage crew instead focused on fixing wire harnesses underneath and around the vessel to prepare it for hoisting by a crane mounted on a barge.

Once out of the water and removed to a secure location the Mermaid will be examined by police who have launched a criminal probe into the cause of the accident.

The captain of the river cruise boat, the Viking Sigyn, has been arrested on suspicion of "endangering waterborne traffic resulting in multiple deaths".

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