Colombia : tourist boat sinks – 6 dead and 31 missing

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At least six people have died and 31 people are missing after a tourist boat carrying about 150 people sank in a reservoir in north-west Colombia, near the city of Medellín.

There was confusion over the death toll after Margarita Moncada, a local rescue official, confirmed nine had died in the accident on the Guatapé-El Peñol reservoir.

Later Colombia’s president Juan Manuel Santos arrived on the scene and said 122 people were either rescued or found their way to shore. Six had died and another 31 were missing, he said. The discrepancies in the number of fatalities could not be immediately reconciled.

The injured were being treated in the local hospital. Colombian air force helicopters were dispatched and stood ready to evacuate the most seriously wounded.

Videos circulating on social media showed panicked passengers running to the top deck of the multi-storey ferry as it sank. Other recreational vessels rushed to the distressed boat, which was reportedly loaded to capacity as holidaymakers took advantage of a long weekend.

View image on Twitter

.@FuerzaAereaCol apoya a esta hora rescate de personas de embarcación que naufragó en Guatapé, Antioquia

Witnesses told the El Tiempo newspaper that the boat, named El Almirante – the Admiral – broke in two and that the captain told all the passengers to move to one side of the vessel.

Rescued passengers said they had not been provided with life vests when they boarded the vessel.

Two residents of Guatapé told Blu Radio that the same boat had sunk about three months ago when it was tied at the dock. “They fixed it and it kept working normally,” one of the residents told the radio network.

The city of Medellín and the Colombian Red Cross sent rescue crews to the area. It was unclear if any foreigners were on the vessel.

Guatapé is a popular holiday spot for Colombian and foreign tourists attracted by water sports on the reservoir and rock climbing on the El Peñol rock face.

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