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Bangladesh rescuers search for ferry victims

Authorities say they expect to find bodies in the capsized MV Miraj 4, which sank on Thursday with 200 people on board.

Last updated: 17 May 2014 05:31
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Relatives of victims watch the rescue operations of the sunken ferry MV Miraj 4 [AP]

Search workers in Bangladesh are expecting to find scores of bodies trapped between the decks of a river ferry which capsized with about 200 people on board.

The hull of the vessel MV Miraj 4 was visible above the surface on Saturday, and divers had attached chains to one side in order for a crane to pull the ferry right side up.

About 40 people swam to shore and 35 were rescued after the double-decker ferry went down in the Meghna river near the the capital, Dhaka, during a storm on Thursday.

Forty-five bodies have been recovered so far, according to officials in the Munshiganj district, and authorities have given up hope of finding anyone else alive.

The Inland Water Transport Authority said that the MV Miraj 4 ferry had capacity for 122 passengers, but according to several survivors and a district administrative official the number on board was almost double.

The authority's chairman, Shamsuddoha Khandaker, said the ferry would be pulled back into position on Saturday, making it easier for divers to retrieve those feared trapped inside.

The district administration of Munshiganj has decided to give 20,000 taka ($256) to each of the families of a deceased.

Survivors blamed the ship's captain for refusing to take shelter from a gathering storm. An investigation has been launched into whether the MV Miraj 4 had been carrying too many passengers.

"We'll take action against the ship's driver and the owner as we have got evidences that the driver defied warnings to continue the journey despite the storm," Khandaker said.

Survivors and officials told AFP news agency the ship capsized after it was swamped by giant waves.

Ferry accidents are common in Bangladesh, one of Asia's poorest nations which is criss-crossed by more than 230 rivers.

Experts blame poorly maintained vessels, flaws in design and overcrowding for most of the tragedies.

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