Tue, Feb 22, 2005 - Page 5 News List

Ferry sinking claims at least 117 lives

NEVER LEARNING Ferry accidents are common in Bangladesh, most of them caused by overcrowding. The overloaded ferry that sank Saturday capsized in a storm


Divers found 35 more bodies yesterday to boost the death toll in a weekend ferry sinking to 117, though the tally was expected to rise further as rescuers searched for dozens more people still missing in a river near the Bangladesh capital.

The double-decker MV Maharaj was carrying about 200 people when it capsized during a storm late on Saturday on the Buriganga River. It was about 30 minutes into its journey from Dhaka to the eastern town of Chandpur when gusts struck just before midnight. It capsized near the town of Pagla.

Eighty-two bodies were found on Sunday before rescue work was suspended for the night and 35 bodies were found early Monday, said Lieutenant Commander Mahbubur Rashid, a navy officer supervising the search.

More bodies were feared trapped inside the sunken ship, and rescuers hoped to pull the wreckage out of the water later yesterday, he said.

"The accident happened in darkness and it's still unclear how many people died or survived," said Mahbubur Rahman, a local government official.

The bodies of victims, including infants, were lined up in rows on a field near the banks of the river, and thousands of anxious people gathered there to identify their kin. Grieving relatives had claimed 74 of the bodies for funerals, rescuers said yesterday.

President Iajuddin Ahmed urged authorities to speed up rescue work, and ordered an investigation into the accident.

Ferry accidents are common in this South Asian nation crisscrossed by rivers. Most of the accidents are blamed on overcrowding, bad weather and poor navigation.

Many of the passengers were on their way home ahead of a two-day public holiday when the boat sank. Some of them were rescued by villagers and fishing boats.

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.

Kohinoor Begum, a garment worker who was picked up by a trawler, said, "It was dark and high winds came from the south. The ferry careered to one side and I jumped into the water."

Her brother and a nephew traveling with her died, she said.

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