6 dead, dozens missing after tourist boat sinks in Colombia

Colombia President Juan Manuel Santos says naval experts were investigating the cause of the tragedy.

Colombia boat sinking: Six killed and 16 missing
Rescuers search for victims after a tourist boat sank with 150 passengers in the Guatape reservoir, Colombia, June 25, 2017. Reuters

At least six people died and another 16 went missing after the four-deck passenger boat sank on a reservoir near the Colombian city of Medellin on Sunday, officials said. According to the authorities, 133 people were rescued. The passengers were reportedly out touring for the holiday weekend.

An official in the National Risk Management Unit, Carlos Ivan Marquez, told Agence France-Presse the six killed were "all Colombians, and no minors".

A search and rescue operation is on for the missing passengers of the boat, emblazoned with the name El Almirante, that was carrying 170 people on board. Witness Juan Quiroz told the BBC the boat sank in less than five minutes.

Firefighters from nearby cities and air force pilots have also joined the rescue team to search for survivors at the Guatape reservoir where the four-storey ferry sank. Army helicopters and divers later joined the search-and-rescue operation.

Reports said that a fleet of leisure boats and jet skis came to the rescue immediately after the incident and began pulling victims from the water and the top deck of the vessel. Some of the survivors complained that the ferry looked overloaded and they had not been given life jackets.

Several online videos of the incident showed a turquoise and yellow trimmed party boat rocking back and forth before the lower deck submerged. It also showed the people attempting to crawl down from the fourth-floor roof when the ferry began sinking in the water.

"Those on the first and second floors sank immediately," a female survivor who wasn't identified by name told Teleantioquia. "The boat was sinking and all we could do was scream and call for help," according to the Associated Press reports.

Margarita Moncada, the head of the disaster response agency in Antioquia state, said that nearly 99 people have been rescued, while others managed to reach the shore on their own. Moncada added that all of the rescued passengers were in good condition.

Colombia President Juan Manuel Santos said naval experts were investigating the cause of the tragedy and divers would continue searching for people all night.