Colombian tourist ferry capsizes with loss of 9 people and 28 more missing

Photo credit: Juan Quiroz/Agence France-Presse - Getty Images
Photo credit: Juan Quiroz/Agence France-Presse – Getty Images

Content reprinted from the Associated Press

Nine people died and 28 were missing after a tourist ferry packed with about 170 passengers capsized on Sunday 25 June on a reservoir near Medellin, officials said.

A major rescue effort involving Colombia’s Air Force and firefighters from nearby cities searched for survivors at a reservoir in Guatape where the four-story boat, El Almirante, sank. As it went down, recreational boats and Jet Skis rushed to the scene to pull people from the ferry and deliver them safely to the shore, avoiding an even deadlier tragedy.

It was unclear what caused the boat to sink, but survivors said it appeared to be overloaded and nobody on board was wearing a life vest.

Dramatic videos on social media showed the turquoise and yellow trimmed party boat rocking back and forth as it began to sink, with people crawling down from the top floor.

“Those on the first and second floors sank immediately,” a female survivor who was not identified told Teleantioquia, a public television network in Colombia. “The boat was sinking and all we could do was scream and call for help.”

Margarita Moncada, the head of the disaster response agency in Antioquia state, said that according to a preliminary report 99 people had been rescued and 40 others had made it to shore safely and in good condition.

The authorities put out a call for scuba divers to help with the search for the missing.

Daniel Giraldo, owner of an Italian restaurant in Guatape, said he went to the reservoir after hearing the sound of ambulances. When he arrived, people told him the ship had gone under. “It sank in a matter of four minutes,” he said.

Mr. Giraldo said he then he went to the hospital where he saw a baby girl in a wet dress who had been saved but whose mother, he was told, was missing.

The authorities could not say exactly how many people were on the boat and asked passengers or relatives to report to a makeshift rescue center along the shore of the reservoir, which surrounds the soaring rocky outcrop of El Penol, a popular weekend destination a little more than an hour from Medellin. It was especially crowded on Sunday as Colombians celebrated a long holiday weekend.

Comment by IIMS.
It is not for the IIMS to voice an opinion as to the cause of this awful incident, nor to question the regulations that pertain to any particular country; but the Institute was saddened to see once again a tragedy of this nature. It remains a too regular occurrence around the world and that innocent people enjoying a trip on the water should be killed in this fashion is distressing to say the least. It is to be hoped that once the Colombian authorities have investigated and discovered the cause that lessons will be learnt and new regulations implemented in the future – sadly too late for those who have lost their lives on this occasion.

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