The boat with 33 South Korean tourists on board capsized on the Danube river in Budapest. Officials are searching for miles downriver from the city amid heavy rain.

Rescue workers try to help at the bank of Danube River in downtown Budapest on May 29, 2019.
Rescue workers try to help at the bank of Danube River in downtown Budapest on May 29, 2019. (AFP)

At least seven people were confirmed dead and 21 remained missing early on Thursday after a sightseeing boat carrying 33 South Korean passengers and two crew members collided with another vessel and sank in the Danube River in downtown Budapest.

Rescue officials said seven bodies had been recovered. Pal Gyorfi, the spokesman for the National Ambulance Service, said seven people were rescued and hospitalised in stable condition following the accident on Wednesday night.

National police spokesman Kristof Gal said 33 South Koreans were on the boat, after early reports mentioned 32. South Korea's foreign ministry later confirmed that 33 of its citizens were on the boat and said 19 were still missing.

The two crew members were identified as Hungarian.

The sunken boat was located early Thursday near the Margit Bridge, not far from the neo-Gothic Parliament building on the river bank.

"There could be 30 to 40 people on the boat [that capsized], the rescue operations are ongoing. Together with other task forces [police, firefighters], we're looking for the injured, we can give detailed information later," said Gabor Csato, an official from the Hungarian National Ambulance Service.

Employees from the South Korean embassy in Budapest were assisting Hungarian officials in identifying those rescued and the deceased.

Rescue under way

Officials said searchers were checking the Danube for miles downriver from Budapest. The river was fast-flowing and rising as heavy rain continued in the city.

Earlier, the news website said one of the people rescued was found near the Petofi Bridge, which is about two miles south of Parliament.

Dozens of rescue personnel, including from the military and divers, were involved in the search.

The boat that sank was identified as the "Hableany" (Mermaid), which is described on the sightseeing company's website as "one of the smallest members of the fleet." It has two decks and a capacity for 60 people, or 45 for sightseeing cruises.

Mihaly Toth, a spokesman for the Panorama Deck boating company, said the "Hableany" was on a "routine city sightseeing trip" when the accident happened. He told state television that he had no information about any technical problems with the boat, which he said was serviced regularly.

Source: AP