An agreement has been reached between the Slovak owners of the ill-fated tug "Ďumbier" which sank last year on the Danube River and Austrian river authorities about the next steps to be taken with the vessel.
Austrian shipping authority spokesman Reinhard Vorderwinkler said divers would be sent down later in January to determine the position and state of the tug. They will also try to recover the two or possibly three bodies of the eight crew members who drowned in the October 22 accident and are still believed to be in the ship. The Slovak shipping company's insurance firm will cover the costs. Attempts will also be made to pump out any fuel that might still be in the vessel.
Initially river authorities were expecting an oil spill, which would have made locating the wreck easier, but there was no leak. The main pollution concern is still the sacks of fish meal that the ship was transporting when it sank. Although Slovaks came over and helped retrieve sacks shortly after the accident, the extremely high water levels at the time has meant that many of the approximately 2000 sacks were washed far downstream.
The fish meal poses a health threat to any chickens, water fowl or animals that might eat it, according to Phil Weller of the World Wide Fund for Nature. Even today, three months after the barge loaded with fish meal hit the bridge, Weller said "parts of the banks of the Danube still stink."
The divers also plan to attach cables to the wreck and to a land outcrop, to prevent it from shifting. The wreck itself will first be lifted when the temporary bridge supporting the current building activities over the Danube has been dismantled. That will probably be in late autumn.
The turbines for the power station should then be functioning and this should create a current-free zone below the weir and make the whole salvage operation less hazardous. The owners have also indicated that they are prepared to pay for the costs of the salvaging, according to the river authorities, and this settles a two month long argument.
Meanwhile 23-year-old Rainer Haselbacher, who risked his life to rescue a crew member from the tug, has been given a medal by the mayor of Vienna, Michael Haupl. Haselbacher saw the ship hit the half open steel doors of the power station and become jammed. The station is being constructed at the Freudenau area of the Danube near Vienna.
He ran to the site and noticed a badly injured sailor washed against the concrete support. Using a rope and ladder, he rescued the injured man. "It all happened very quickly," said Haselbacher,. adding he had no time to think about the risk he himself was taking.
16. Jan 1997 at 0:00 | Sue Tapply