Bangladesh ferry toll rises to 29, search on for over 100 missing

Written by PTI | Dhaka | Updated: May 16 2014, 23:07pm hrs
Rescuers retrieved more bodies today from a sunken ferry in Bangladesh, taking the death toll to 29, as search continued for the second day for over 100 others on the overcrowded vessel that capsized during a storm.

"Twenty nine bodies have been retrieved so far while searches are underway for the missing ones," a shipping department official told reporters near the scene of the accident at suburban Munshiganj on the outskirts of Dhaka.

He, however, could not confirm the exact number of passengers onboard the double-decker MV Miraj-4 though officials and survivors earlier estimated the figure to range between 200 and 350.

Fifty people swam ashore or were rescued soon after the ferry capsized in high wind and rain on the Meghna river yesterday.

The Munshiganj district administration officials said 18 of the retrieved bodies were identified and taken away by relatives.

A salvage vessel detected the ferry, weighing 110 tonnes, on the riverbed under 80 feet of water. A coastguard diver told TV channels at the scene that "many more bodies were still inside".

Officials said they expect to get a clearer picture of casualties once the ferry is pulled out of the water.

A team of 50 divers of fire service, coastguard and navy continued to look for the missing while residents in nearby villages supplemented the rescue operation with boats.

Hundreds of grim-faced people, mostly relatives of the missing passengers, waited on the banks of the river as the search continued. The mishap killed an entire family of five.

Officials and local residents said the storm hit the ferry over an hour after it left Dhaka's Sadarghat terminal for its destination at southwestern Shariatpur.

Most of the traumatised survivors blamed the captain and overloading of the vessel for the accident.

Authorities formed a three-member panel to probe the accident and it will submit its findings in a week.

The accident came less than two weeks after another passenger ferry with over 70 people onboard capsized during a seasonal storm on the southwestern coast of Bangladesh.

Ferry accidents are common in Bangladesh, criss-crossed by some 340 rivers, particularly in monsoon period with experts blaming poorly maintained vessels, flaws in boat design and overcrowding for most of the tragedies.