26 June, 2017
At least nine people were dead and 28 missing after a boat carrying tourists sank in a reservoir in northwestern Colombia, a regional official said on Monday.
Rescuers including firefighters from nearby cities and air force pilots were searching for survivors at the reservoir near Medellin where the El Almirante sank with about 160 passengers on board.
Videos on social media showed the party boat rocking back and forth just before it overturned.
"Those on the first and second floors sank immediately", a female survivor who wasn't identified by name told Teleantioquia.
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. "All we could do was scream and call for help.it was completely chaotic". Army helicopters and divers later joined the search-and-rescue operation.
There was initial confusion over the death toll after Margarita Moncada, the head of disaster relief for Antioquia province, told journalists that nine people had died. Complicating the search, there wasn't even a passenger list.
But President Juan Manuel Santos, who traveled to Guatape to oversee search efforts, said it was sailing well below capacity.
"Nobody really knows what happened", said Mr Santos, adding that naval officials were brought in to carry out an investigation.
"This boat sank three months ago, but at the pier, with no passengers".
The scale of the accident led to the mobilization of Colombia's armed forces, Victoria Eugenia Ramirez, secretary of the government of Antioquia, told the media.
The Penol-Guatape reservoir is a popular tourist destination approximately an hour from the central city of Medellín.
It was a long holiday weekend in Colombia and the El Almirante ferry was filled with tourists.
As night fell, the usually festive town was silent as people began to register the magnitude of the loss.
"All we ask is that they don't give up the search", said Villegas.