Mon, Feb 21, 2005 - Page 5 News List

Ferry in Bangladesh capsizes, kills 37, 150 are still missing

AP , Dhaka, Bangladesh

Rescuers search for victims of a shipwrecked ferry, foreground, that capsized on the Buriganga River, about 16km south of Dhaka, Bangladesh, yesterday.

PHOTO: AP

A Bangladesh ferry capsized and sank during a tropical storm overnight, leaving at least 37 people dead and 150 missing, rescue officials said yesterday.

The double-decker ferry MV Maharaj was carrying about 200 people when it capsized Saturday night on the Buriganga River just outside the capital, Dhaka, the officials said.

"We have so far found 37 bodies and rescuers were looking for dozens still missing," said Mahbubur Rahman, an area government administrator.

"The accident happened in darkness and it's still unclear how many people died or survived," Rahman said, adding that women and children were among the dead. He said many passengers were rescued by villagers and fishing boats.

However, the death toll could rise, as many bodies were feared trapped inside the sunken ferry, another rescue official said.

"We fear many of the missing people are trapped inside the ferry and presumed dead," said Syed Monwar Hossain, an official at state-run Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Authority that oversees the operation of river ferries.

A salvage ship was trying to recover the ferry with cranes and ropes from about 6m of water, Hossain said. Another rescue vessel was en route to the site of accident.

The vessel was about 30 minutes into its journey from Dhaka to the eastern town of Chandpur when gusty winds struck just before midnight. It capsized and sank near Pagla town outside Dhaka.

Jasim Uddin, an auto-rickshaw driver, was rescued by a fishing boat but his daughter and a nephew died. His wife, a son and four other relatives traveling with him were missing.

"I've lost everyone in my family. What sin have I committed? Oh Allah, tell me how shall I live without them," sobbed Uddin, 35, sitting in front of the bodies of his daughter and nephew. Uddin was returning home with his family after attending a Muslim religious ceremony in Dhaka.

"It was dark and high winds came from the south. The ferry careened to one side and I jumped into the waters," said Kohinoor Begum, a garment worker who was picked up by a trawler. She said her brother and a nephew traveling with her died. Thousands of people gathered on the river's banks to look for their loved ones.

"I'm looking for my brother, his wife and their 1-year-old son," said Dhaka businessman Mujibur Rahman.

Authorities have ordered an investigation into the accident.

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