Three dead and 30 missing after tourist boat sinks in Colombia

It's unclear what caused the boat to sink.

Santos said there are "six people deceased so far and 31 reported missing", after the regional government earlier gave a death toll of at least nine.

People who survived a sunken ferry, cry as they wait for more information about their missing friends and relatives, at a reservoir in Guatape, Colombia, Sunday, June 25, 2017.

A search and rescue operation is on for the missing passengers of the boat, emblazoned with the name El Almirante, that was carrying 170 people on board. A flotilla of recreational boats and jet skis rushed to the scene, pulling people from the boat as it went down and avoiding an even deadlier tragedy.

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Dramatic videos 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 sank in a matter of minutes.

"The Admiral", a four-level vessel, was taking visitors on a tour of the reservoir located 80 km east of Medellin, when it began to tilt sideways, then gradually sink. Army helicopters and divers later joined the search-and-rescue operation. "The boat was sinking and all we could do was scream and call for help", according to the Associated Press reports.

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.

"We started to feel like the boat was going to capsize", said the woman, who appeared on television but was not identified.

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"This boat sank three months ago, but at the pier, with no passengers". Complicating the search, there was no passenger list.

"Nobody really knows what happened", said Santos, adding that naval officials were brought in to carry out an investigation and divers would continue searching for people all night.

The reservoir surrounding the soaring rocky outcrop of El Penol is a popular weekend destination a little more than an hour from Medellin. Guatape fills with tourists on long weekends like this one, since Monday is a holiday in Colombia.

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