A RIVER ferry carrying about 140 passengers capsized in central Bangladesh yesterday after being hit by a cargo vessel, killing at least 48 people.
A rescue operation was under way, but last night it was not clear how many people were missing, officials said
Yesterday’s disaster was one of the deadliest boat accidents in recent months in the country, which has a history of ferry tragedies.
Rescue workers had recovered 48 bodies including a child and two women, local officials Rashida Ferdous said, adding that she did not know the exact number of people missing.
She said a salvage vessel was on its way to raise the sunken vessel, adding that the master of the cargo ship and two other crew had been arrested.
“Some 50 people swam ashore or were rescued by other vessels,” she added.
The twin-deck MV Mostofa was carrying about 140 passengers when it capsized in the middle of the Padma river.
The ferry was struck by the cargo vessel at the Daulatdia-Paturia crossing on the Padma River in the afternoon, said a fire department official.
Rescue teams were deployed and passing boats were helping in the operation, he added.
The ferry sank 25 miles north-west of Dhaka, Bangladesh’s capital.
Ferry accidents are common in Bangladesh, an impoverished South Asian nation that is crisscrossed by more than 130 rivers.
The ferry was submerged at a depth of up to 20ft, said Inspector Zihad Mia, who is overseeing the rescue operation. By yesterday evening, at least 48 bodies had been recovered.
He added that officials had yet to determine how many passengers were missing. Ferries in Bangladesh usually do not maintain formal passenger lists.
“We don’t have a clear picture about how many were exactly in the ferry when it sank,” Mr Mia said. “But I think many have survived.”
A passenger who survived said many people were trapped.
“The passengers who were on the deck have survived, but many who were inside got trapped,” Hafizur Rahman Sheikh said
Mr Sheikh said the cargo vessel hit the middle of the ferry.
The Padma is one of the largest rivers in Bangladesh, where overcrowding and poor safety standards are often blamed for ferry disasters.
Last August, a ferry with a capacity of 85 passengers was found to be carrying more than 200 when it capsized on the Padma near Dhaka, leaving more than 100 people dead. The ferry’s owner was arrested after weeks in hiding on charges of culpable homicide.
At least five people were killed earlier this month when a ferry sank in southern Bangladesh.