Scores missing as overloaded ferry sunk by wave on Bangladesh’s Padma river

Two dead, 100 unaccounted for, in latest Bangladeshi transport disaster

PUBLISHED : Monday, 04 August, 2014, 9:46pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 05 August, 2014, 10:51am


An overloaded ferry sank in rough conditions in central Bangladesh yesterday with up to 200 passengers on board, in the latest disaster to hit the country's rivers.

Emergency workers said about 100 survivors and two bodies had been pulled out of the river, but the other passengers were unaccounted for.

Watch: Bangladeshis mourn missing relatives after overloaded ferry capsized

"The waves were huge, the ferry was rolling heavily from side to side," said survivor Syed Saadi, whose wife and two sons were still missing. "The boat flooded with water after a huge wave hit it, and tipped over before sinking under the water," he told Channel 24 television.

The ferry was about 30km south of the capital Dhaka when it sank on the river Padma in Munshiganj district. Ferry accidents are common in the impoverished country, with overcrowding and poor ship design and maintenance often to blame.

Local police chief Tofazzal Hossain said the vessel was overloaded with passengers and conditions were rough. The police chief of Madaripur, where the ferry began its journey, said it was carrying between 170 and 200 passengers.

But one survivor, speaking on local television, said there were up to 350 passengers on board.

"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 motor boat, other people were also rescued by boats."

Bangladeshi ferries do not maintain passenger logbooks, and are often overloaded.

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

"Our divers are going to locate the sunken ferry and start the rescue operations," Mohammad Dulal of the fire service said.

"We are waiting for a big rescue vessel which is on its way. It's very difficult to go there at the scene and stay afloat."

Jasim Uddin, 35, was among thousands of people who watched the vessel go down from the shore, recording it on his cellphone as it disappeared.

When the survivors began to come to shore, he said they were exhausted and panicked.

"One woman swam nearly to shore and was picked up by a speedboat," he said.

"She was crying, saying she has two daughters. It was panic. Everyone was praying to God."

Bangladesh, one of Asia's poorest nations, is criss-crossed by more than 230 rivers and boats are the main form of travel, especially in the southern and northeastern regions.

However many of the vessels in use date back to before independence in 1971.

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

Additional reporting by Associated Press