At Least Seven Dead and Others Missing After Leisure Boat Sinks in Colombian Tourist Town of Guatapé
At least seven people have died and two remain missing after a recreational ship capsized while carrying more than 150 passengers in the Colombian tourist town of Guatapé, according to the National Unit of Disaster Risk Management (UNGRD).
The agency reported that 158 people have been rescued, at least three of which were sent to the hospital for immediate care. In all, at least 24 of those confirmed to have been rescued suffered injuries, according to Colombian newspaper El Tiempo.
The death toll rose more than 24 hours later when the body of one woman was found in the water. The list of those missing, however, fell from 13 in the hours after the tragedy to two as the UNGRD was later able to account for more people who had not been confirmed as alive previously. “We will continue to work,” said Carlos Iván Márquez, director of the agency. “The numbers will continue to change as we make rescues or new people appear.”
About 28 people are missing after the four-deck Almirante vessel went down near the tourist town of Guatapé, Columbia (via BBC) pic.twitter.com/16zLquUUXG
— Global Times (@globaltimesnews) June 26, 2017
The multi-tiered leisure boat, named El Almirante, departed the shore of the picturesque manmade Guatapé-El Peñol reservoir area roughly 50 miles west of Medellín for a normal day out during a holiday weekend when millions in Colombia and the department of Antioquia have Monday off from work.
But soon after departure, according to witness reports published by El Tiempo, the ship made a loud noise some time after 2 pm and then began taking on water quickly as it began to submerge.
Some abandoned ship as panic struck, and other nearby small boats rushed to aid the capsizing vessel that then collapsed upon itself. At least one survivor, per El Tiempo, said that the passengers were never provided with life vests.
Along with a host of emergency workers and a helicopter flying overhead, at least 10 divers were dispatched into the water during the rescue efforts. They continued to search even as nightfall began to make the work more difficult in the murky water that defines this town that sits 7,000 feet above sea level in the central Colombian Andes.
As darkness set in, senior police official Óscar Gómez told the press that “we will not stop and we will be here as long as necessary in order to rescue people.” He said that the police is already investigating the accident but will continue to focus its primary efforts toward the rescue.
President Santos, who traveled to Guatapé to offer solidarity and provide support to the victims, said that “we will do everything in our power.”
In addition to firefighters, the national police, and UNGRD personnel, members of various branches of the military and the Colombian Red Cross have been assisting with the rescue efforts and emergency response.
Emotional and other support “is being provided to those affected and their families,” said Carlos Iván Márquez, director of UNGRD.
This is a developing story that has been updated as additional information has been revealed.
Photo: Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos traveled to Guatapé, a tourist town known for its gorgeous manmade lake and the towering El Peñol rock formation, to support the victims of the deadly disaster. (Credit: Presidencia de la República)