DHAKA: A ferry with about 200 passengers on board capsized in Bangladesh on Monday in a river southwest of the capital, Dhaka, and about 100 people were unaccounted for, the chief of the district administration said.
Low-lying Bangladesh, with extensive inland waterways and slack safety standards, has an appalling record of ferry accidents, with casualties sometimes running into the hundreds. Overcrowding is a common factor in many of the accidents and each time there is an accident the government vows to toughen regulations. Mohammad Saiful Hasan Badal, deputy commissioner of Munshiganj district, said about 100 passengers had been rescued from the vessel after it went down in the Padma river.
Two women had been taken to hospital and died and the remainder of those on board were unaccounted for, he said. There was a possibility some had swum to the riverbank. “Most of the passengers were coming back to the city after celebrating Eid al-Fitr,” Saiful told Reuters, referring to the festival marking the end of the Ramadan fasting month. Teams from the Inland Water Transport Authority, fire brigade and the army were helping with the rescue about 30 km (18 miles) southwest of Dhaka.
The stretch of river where the ferry sank was deep and the weather was bad meaning there was no sign of the boat under the choppy water. Survivor Mohammad Suman told Reuters two of his brothers and a sister were missing. “We were five altogether and I and another survived by jumping from the ferry,” he said. In March 2012, a ferry sank near the same spot, killing at least 145 people.
Meanwhile, Rescuers have been facing severe difficulties due to high waves and strong winds in their search for missing people after a ferry jam-packed with hundreds of passengers sank in the middle of a river in central Bangladesh on Monday morning.
“The waves are as high as 3-4 meters, while the location of the sunken ferry is quite far from the shore,” Senior Fire Brigade official Nurul Alam Dulal told Xinhua at the scene. He said the navy and fire service divers have already joined the rescue operation but the inclement weather made it almost impossible for them to search in waters. “Divers have been fighting high winds and waves to try to access the ferry.” Nearly five hours after the ferry capsized, divers fighting strong currents and rain have been unable to get inside the ferry and locate it.
“We’re keenly waiting for the arrival of a heavy rescue vessel. Braving high waves and strong winds, we went to the probable accident site but could not stay there for a moment as the small engine boat carrying us failed to anchor.” Tofazzal Hossain, officer-in-charge of Lauhajang Police Station in Munshiganj district, some 27 km away from capital Dhaka, said the ferry Pinak-6, carrying some 200-300 passengers, capsized in Padma river at around 11:15 a.m. local time.
“Bodies of two women and one child have been recovered so far,” said Tofazzal Hossain. He said a heavy rescue vessel has been called in to boost local efforts to salvage the ferry. According to the official, about 110 people, who survived by swimming, were rescued after the ferry capsized in high winds and rain on the Padma’s Maowa-Kewrakandi river route.
Officials could not tell the exact number of the missing passengers. The ferry services in Bangladesh never maintain lists of passengers and none can exactly say how many passengers a ferry carries. “We’ve come to know that the ferry was overloaded with passengers and it capsized in the Padma river which was rough enough,” said another police official who preferred to be unnamed.
Hundreds of relatives and friends of the ill-fated passengers Saturday also gathered at the accident site to identify the dead or in the quest for the missing. Ferry disasters are common in Bangladesh with about 250 rivers. Ferry is still a key means of transport in the country. Most of them are often overcrowded. At least 138 bodies were recovered after an overcrowded ferry capsized in March 2012, also in Munshiganj.
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