21 dead, dozens missing after boat sinks in Bangladesh

Passenger vessel reportedly collided with a sand-laden cargo ship on a lake in the town of Bijoynagar in eastern Bangladesh.

At least 21 people were killed and dozens remain missing as a boat packed with passengers and a sand-laden cargo ship collided in a lake in eastern Bangladesh.

The boat was reportedly carrying some 60 passengers when the incident occurred on Friday on a lake in the town of Bijoynagar, local official Hayat-ud-Doula Khan said.

The cargo ship’s steel tip and the boat collided, causing the passenger vessel to capsize, he said.

“We have recovered 21 bodies including nine women and six children so far,” he told AFP news agency, adding the death toll will likely rise.

It is unclear how many people were on board at the time of the collision, and exactly how many remain missing. According to police official Imranul Islam, survivors said about 100 people were on board.

Local fire service spokesman Taufiqul Islam said divers were searching the scene for bodies, and reinforcements had been called in from neighbouring towns. Locals also joined the rescue efforts.

Police said at least seven people were taken to a local hospital after they were rescued from the sunken boat.

‘Loud noise’

Survivor Akhi Akter said she was travelling with her son, mother-in-law and brother-in-law in the passenger vessel.

“When the accident occurred, I managed to swim back to the bank. But the rest of my relatives are still missing,” she said tearfully.

A witness said two cargo ships hit the boat, which sank quickly, Dhaka-based The Daily Star newspaper reported.

“I was grazing cattle on the bank of the pond. I heard a loud noise and saw the cargo vessels hitting the passenger trawler. I saw the trawler sinking quickly,” witness Nurul Amin told the paper.

The area is 82km (51 miles) east of the capital, Dhaka. Local authorities have formed a committee to investigate the accident.

It was the latest in a string of similar incidents in the South Asian country. In April and May, 54 were killed in two separate boat capsizing accidents.

Experts blame poor maintenance, lax safety standards at shipyards and overcrowding for many of the deadly incidents.

Vessels transporting sand sit low in the water and can be hard to see in choppy conditions, particularly in poor lighting.

In June last year, a ferry sank in Dhaka after it was hit from behind by another ferry, killing at least 32 people. In February 2015, at least 78 people died when an overcrowded ship collided with a cargo boat.

Source: News Agencies