9 dead, 28 missing after boat sinks in Colombia

Posted at 6:49 PM, Jun 25, 2017
and last updated 2017-06-25 19:57:23-04

BOGOTA, Colombia — A multi-story tourist boat packed with about 150 passengers for the holiday weekend capsized on a reservoir near Medellin on Sunday, and police in Colombia said nine people were dead and 28 missing.

A major rescue effort involving Colombia’s air force and firefighters from nearby cities was looking for survivors at the Guatape reservoir where the accident took place. Medellin’s mayor appealed to motorists to stay off roads to facilitate the arrival of rescuers, ambulances and first responders.

“The most important thing right now is to save lives,” said Mayor Federico Gutierrez.

Dramatic videos circulating on social media show the ferry, called El Almirante, rocking back and forth as people crawled down from a third-floor roof as the ship began sinking. A flotilla of recreational boats rushed to the scene to pull people from the vessel, avoiding an even deadlier tragedy.

Eduardo Rivera, director of a hospital in Guatape, told Teleantioquia that three people had died in the accident. Gen. Jorge Nieto, the head of Colombia’s police, said approximately 30 people were missing.

The head of the disaster response agency in Colombia’s Antioquia state later said that nine people had died and around 28 were missing after the boat capsized.

Margarita Moncada said that 99 people were rescued immediately and another 40 managed to find shore on their own and were in good health.

It’s unclear what caused the boat to sink but survivors told local media that it appeared to be overloaded and none of the passengers on board were wearing life vests.

The reservoir surrounding the soaring rocky outcrop of El Penol is a popular weekend destination a little more than an hour from Medellin. It was especially busy Sunday as Colombians celebrated a long holiday weekend.