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Massive Rescue Underway After Tourist Boat Carrying 150 Sinks In Colombia

26 June 2017

A boat carrying as many as 150 tourists capsized in a reservoir near Medellin, Colombia on Sunday, officials from the air force said.

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. The discrepancies in the number of fatalities could not be immediately reconciled.

"At the moment, we can confirm the deaths of three people and that there are approximately 30 more missing", National Police Director Gen. Jorge Hernando Nieto told the El Colombiano newspaper.

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An aerial view of the Guatape reservoir in Colombia.

Dramatic videos circulating on social media show the turquoise and yellow trimmed party boat rocking back and forth as people crawled down from a fourth-floor roof as it began sinking into the water. One of the survivors told El Tiempo newspaper the crew never gave lifejackets to the passengers.

Search teams set up a rescue center on the shore of the Guatape reservoir and asked anyone looking for loved ones to report to the area.

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A group of 25 scuba divers had to suspend their search overnight due to a lightning storm.

It's unclear what caused the boat to sink but survivors said that it appeared to be overloaded and nobody on board was wearing a life vest. The ship was the only vessel involved in the accident, government officials said Sunday.

The reservoir surrounding the soaring rocky outcrop of El Penol is a popular weekend destination a little more than an hour from Medellin.

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As night fell, the usually festive town was silent as people began to register the magnitude of the loss. "According to preliminary reports, the boat was at full (passenger) capacity, due to the fact that during holiday long weekends, thousands of tourists visit the town", RCN Radio said.