29 bodies recovered in Bangladesh ferry capsizing

AP, May 16, 2014

MUNSHIGANJ, Bangladesh (AP) — Rescuers have recovered at
least 29 bodies a day after a ferry capsized in a river during a storm
in central Bangladesh and police estimate at least 100 others were
missing, officials said Friday.

Exactly how many people were on
board wasn’t clear because the ferry operators did not maintain a
passenger list, a local administrator, Saiful Hasan, said.

A
salvage ship failed to pull out the ferry as strong currents in the
18-meters- (60-feet-) deep water brought huge volumes of sand, which was
covering the vessel.

Officials said the ferry was apparently
overcrowded and its lower deck was loaded with goods, said Mohammad Ali,
a director of the Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Authority.

An
investigation has been ordered to look into if the vessel was
overcrowded and if it had any design fault, Shipping Minister Shahjahan
Khan said.

Caption: TE GRAPHIC CONTENT – Rescue workers recover the body of a victim of a ferry accident in the River Meghna in Munshiganj district, in Bangladesh, Friday, May 16, 2014. Rescuers have recovered dozens of bodies after a ferry capsized during a storm in a river in central Bangladesh, officials said Friday. (AP Photo/Suvra Kanti Das)


Ali said the death toll could be higher as officials
suspected many passengers were trapped in the lower deck when the vessel
sank.

Sabuj, a passenger who jumped overboard when the ship
began to sink, said he was among some 25 people who managed to swim to
safety.

He said the captain of the double-decker ferry ignored the passengers’ calls to stay close to the shore as the storm started brewing.

“But he continued to steer the ship” out into the water, said Sabuj, who uses one name.

Caption: Relatives of passengers aboard the sunken ferry wait for their missing ones as they watch a rescue operation on the banks of the River Meghna in Munshiganj district, in Bangladesh, Friday, May 16, 2014. Rescuers have recovered dozens of bodies after a ferry capsized during a storm in a river in central Bangladesh, officials said Friday. (AP Photo/Suvra Kanti Das)

Relatives
of the missing and the dead were gathering near the Meghna River, near
where the boat capsized Thursday afternoon in Munshiganj district.
Television coverage showed recovered bodies, covered in cloth, on the
banks of the river.

Many of the family members of the missing
were using country boats to scour the river in search of their dear
ones, and an official used a loudspeaker to ask the relatives to move
away from the accident site to help continue the search.

Many relatives expressed their frustration over slow-moving rescue effort.

“I
came here yesterday for my brother but I don’t have any trace yet.
Nobody can assure me of anything,” said Lokman Hossain as he sobbed.

Caption: A Bangladeshi man mourns near the body of a relative on the banks of the River Meghna in Munshiganj district, in Bangladesh, Friday, May 16, 2014. Rescuers have recovered at least 22 bodies after a ferry capsized during a storm in a river in central Bangladesh, officials said Friday. (AP Photo/Suvra Kanti Das)

“Won’t I get my brother back? Oh brother, please come back,” he wailed.

Officials
said they were trying to locate the crew of the ferry, and said
probably they left the area immediately after the accident.

“We are looking for them,” said Ferdous Ahmed, local police chief.

Ferry
accidents are common in Bangladesh, a low-lying delta nation
crisscrossed by more than 230 rivers, because of overcrowding, faulty
vessels and lax rules.

In 2012, at least 150 people died in the same district when a ferry carrying about 200 people capsized at night.

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