Yesterday, a ferry with roughly 160 passengers flipped over while on a cruise for the holiday weekend near the Colombian city of Medellin. The overturn resulted in 6 dead and 31 missing. Firefighters & Air Force pilots began searching overhead in helicopters for the survivors at the Guatape reservoir where the El Almirante ferry had sank. A large mass of recreational boats and jet skis rushed to the scene, pulling people from the ferry as it was sinking, which helped avoid an even worse tragedy.
Dramatic videos are circulating through social media which are showing the turquoise and yellow ferry rocking back and forth as people crawled down from the fourth-floor roof as it sank. Survivors had described hearing a loud explosion near the men’s bathroom which had knocked out the power for several moments after the ferry had begun its cruise around the great lake.
Survivor Lorena Salazar told media, “Those on the first and second floors sank immediately”, “All we could do was scream and call for help…it was completely chaotic.”
The head of the disaster response agency in Antioquia state, Margarita Moncada, has stated that according to a preliminary report, 99 people were rescued and another 40 were able to find way to the shore on their own. According to the initial investigation, she said, 9 people had been killed and around 28 were missing.
Later on Sunday, President Juan Manuel Santos arrived in Guatape and stated that 122 people were rescued. He also stated that 6 had died in this tragedy and another 31 are missing.
At the current moment, it’s unclear what had caused the ferry to sink, some people who witnessed this tragedy from a nearby shore stated that the boat appeared to be overcrowded, but Santos says it was sailing well below capacity. Complicating the search, there wasn’t a passenger list and none of the passengers were wearing a life vest at the time of the incident, making it more difficult to find them.
Naval officials were brought in to investigate this incident but it’s still unclear on what had caused the ferry to sink.
Authorities are at a loss to say how many people were on the boat and asked passengers to report to a rescue center that was quickly setup along the shore. They also made a call for scuba divers to assist in the search.
An independent journalist from Guatape, Carlos Espinosa, had said that about a month ago, townspeople had woken to find the El Almirante filled with water and sinking at it’s dock, suggesting that the ferry may not have been ready to return to the water yet.