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Party Boat Filled With Tourists Capsizes Near Medellin, Colombia

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.

Survivors described hearing a loud explosion near the men's toilet that knocked out power a few minutes after the boat began its cruise around the giant lake. "The boat was sinking and all we could do was scream and call for help", according to the Associated Press reports. He said that six people had died and another 31 were missing.

Margarita Moncada, the head of the disaster response agency in Antioquia state, said that almost 99 people have been rescued, while others managed to reach the shore on their own.

The passengers who were rescued said that the boat was most likely overcrowded and that many people were not wearing life vests. The discrepancies in the number of fatalities could not be immediately reconciled.

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

But President Juan Manuel Santos, who traveled to Guatape to oversee search efforts, said it was sailing well below capacity. "What we have seen in the videos is that the boat was very close to the port... and we do not know whether it was a mechanical failure, an overloading or something to do with the currents that caused it to sink", said Morales, the fire captain.

In the absence of a passenger list, authorities have been relying on family numbers and survivors to report their whereabouts. The accident mobilised Colombia's armed forces, Victoria Eugenia Ramirez, secretary of the government of Antioquia, told the media.

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

As night fell, the usually festive town was silent as people began to register the magnitude of the loss.

The Penol-Guatape reservoir is a popular tourist destination approximately an hour from the central city of Medellín. Guatape fills with tourists on long weekends like this one, since Monday is a holiday in Colombia.



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