News24

More bodies in Bangladesh ferry sinking

2012-03-14 11:04

Kishori Char - Rescue workers in Bangladesh on Wednesday found eight more bodies after a ferry sunk in a large river and warned scores more may be trapped inside as the death toll hit 40.

The packed Shariatpur 1 vessel capsized in the early hours of Tuesday morning after being hit by an oil barge when crossing the Meghna River, 40km southeast of the capital Dhaka.

Efforts to raise the ferry from the river bed to allow for a full search have so far failed, and divers said they had found the eight bodies near the scene at dawn.

The double-decker ferry, which had about 200 passengers on board, plunged to the bottom after being hit.

"The death toll is now 40," local deputy police chief Tariqul Islam said, adding that many people were still missing based on reports from desperate relatives who gathered on the river bank to watch the rescue work.

Emergency teams hope a second rescue vessel that arrived during the night will enable the ferry to be brought to the surface.

Passenger numbers uncertain

"We intend to lift the vessel and drag it to the shore," navy Commander Gulzar Hossain, who is leading the operation, said.

"But it is tilted on its side and the river is very deep. We fear a lot of dead bodies are stuck inside," he said. "It is heavy as it was also laden with a cargo of hundreds of sacks of chilli."

The exact number of people on the ferry was uncertain as manifest lists are seldom maintained properly in Bangladesh and many travellers buy their tickets when on board.

"As soon as the ferry started to sink with a loud noise, we woke up from sleeping," said survivor Rina Begum as she stood near the accident site on Tuesday.

"Everyone was screaming. I jumped through a window, but my husband could not. I was rescued by a vessel one and a half hours later. I have 15 relatives missing. We were part of a wedding party."

Hundreds of people, including the distraught family and friends of victims, waited at the river's edge for a second day.

Mahbubul Alam, secretary of the Inland Water Transport Authority, said the vessel, which was built in 1991, appeared to have sunk rapidly after the collision.

An investigation has been ordered, he added.