World / Asia-Pacific

Ferry with up to 200 on board capsizes and sinks

By Agencies in Dhaka (China Daily) Updated: 2014-08-05 06:51

A ferry with about 200 passengers aboard capsized on Monday in the Padma River southwest of Dhaka, Bangladesh, and rescue teams got about half of them to safety, the chief of the district administration said.

Mohammad Saiful Hasan Badal, deputy commissioner of Munshiganj district, said about 100 passengers had been rescued from the vessel, identified as the MV Pinak-6. No deaths had yet been reported.

Teams from the Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Authority, fire brigade and army were engaged in the rescue operation about 30 km southwest of Dhaka.

"Most of the passengers were coming back to the city from home after celebrating Eid-al Fitr," Saiful said, referring to the festival marking the end of the Ramadan fasting month.

Survivor Mohammad Suman told Reuters two of his brothers and a sister were missing.

"We were five altogether and I and another survived by jumping from the ferry," he said.

August is monsoon season in Bangladesh, when rivers run high, and the ship was completely submerged.

"We have heard that the ferry was overloaded with passengers, and the river was rough," local police chief Tofazzal Hossain said.

In Madaripur, where the ferry began its journey, the police chief said the ferry was carrying 170 to 200 passengers.

But one survivor, speaking on local television, said the ferry was overloaded with up to 350 passengers.

"There was no storm, but the weather was cloudy and the river was rough. The waves were huge," he said.

"Suddenly the ferry was hit by a wave and flooded with water. I got out through a window, and the ferry sank quickly.

"I was rescued by a local motorboat. Other people were also rescued by boats."

Ferry accidents are common in the country, with overcrowding and poor ship design and maintenance often to blame.

Officials have said more than 95 percent of Bangladesh's hundreds of thousands of small and medium-sized boats do not meet minimum safety regulations.

In May, a passenger ferry believed to be carrying 150 to 200 people sank in central Bangladesh, killing dozens of people. The exact death toll remains unknown.

Survivors blamed the ship's captain for refusing to take shelter from a gathering storm.

AFP - Reuters

(China Daily 08/05/2014 page11)

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