Death toll climbs in Bangladesh ferry sinking

Rescue workers attempt to raise ferry which sank on Meghna river, killing at least 123 people with dozens still missing.

    Ferry accidents are common in Bangladesh, a low-lying delta nation of 160 million people [AFP]
    Ferry accidents are common in Bangladesh, a low-lying delta nation of 160 million people [AFP]

    Recovery workers are trying to salvage the wreck of a ferry that sank on a river in Bangladesh, drowning scores of passengers.

    Bodies of at least 123 victims have been recovered from near the scene of the accident, sources told Al Jazeera, a number expected to rise.

    "Bodies popped out one after another"

    - Abdul Barek, a witness

    Rescue vessels found the ferry under about 20m of water and managed to pull it to the river bank on Wednesday.

    Some victims floated up as the boat was raised.

    "Bodies popped out one after another," Abdul Barek, a witness, said.

    The double-decker MV Shariatpur 1 ferry was hit early on Tuesday morning by a cargo boat, capsizing in the middle of the Meghna river in Munshiganj district, about 32km south of Dhaka.

    Khan said about 35 survivors were rescued from the water, while local media reported that another 40 managed to swim to shore.

    Wailing relatives milled about on the bank as the ferry was dragged to shore.

    Azizul Alam, a senior district official, told reporters that according to information from relatives, at least 61 people were missing.

    It is difficult to get a reliable estimate for the number of passengers as ferry operators rarely keep a list and most passengers buy tickets once on board.

    Some of the bodies inside the sunken ferry were buried under cargo, said Mohammad Alauddin, a diver who was among the searchers.

    Accidents common

    Ferry accidents, often blamed on overcrowding, faulty vessels and lax rules, are common in Bangladesh, a low-lying delta nation of 160 million people.

    Hundreds of anxious people, many of them weeping, had gathered near the scene of the accident to look for loved ones who were on board the ferry.

    Al Jazeera's Nicolas Haque, reporting from Munshiganj on Tuesday, described "a sea of grieving people" waiting to get word about the status of their loved ones.

    "One by one rescuers are bringing out bodies. I have seen bodies of children, women and there is a crowd of people here crying and it's quite an astonishing scene here at the edge of the river," Haque said.

    Survivor Dulal Dewan described chaos as the ferry and cargo boat collided.

    "I was awakened with a big jolt ... I jumped into the river in darkness as the ferry started going down."

    "In minutes there were screams all around," he said. "People were shouting for help."

    An investigation has been ordered into the cause of the accident, Azizul Alam, the area's government administrator, told AP.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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