Bangla ferry mishap toll climbs to 69

Dhaka: Naval divers and rescue workers found 30 more bodies today from an ill-fated ferry which capsized in Meghna river in southwest Bangladesh, taking the death toll in the mishap to 65, officials said. Warning that the toll may rise further, officials said the rescuers were trying to raise the wreckage of the ferry to bring it ashore to find out the fate of dozens of passengers still missing.

The ferry `MV Shariatpur-1` collided head-on with a cargo boat and capsized in darkness early on Tuesday morning, trapping most of the estimated 300 passengers on board the boat headed for the capital Dhaka. "30 more bodies were taken out from inside the sunken launch as divers entered the vessel this morning," a fire official told PTI.

Bodies of 35 passengers had been taken out on Tuesday in salvage operations which lasted the whole day. The operations to raise the vessel resumed this morning after being halted for the night.

Television footages showed two Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Authority (BIWTA) salvage vessels were trying to raise the sunken ferry and tug it to the shoreline in an upside down state. Most of the thirty-four dead bodies recovered today were found floating in the Meghna river.

Earlier, Dhaka Police Chief had said that fifty passengers of the ill-fated vessel had managed to swim to safety on Tuesday and were plucked out by other ferries navigating on the river.  "The death toll is likely to mount further as more people are feared trapped inside. The rescuers after floating the ship to shoreline will attempt to break into the vessel to bring out the bodies," officials said.

They attributed the larger causalities to most of the passengers being asleep when the collision occurred in the wee hours of the morning. The accident perished two entire families and at least four minor children while relatives waited in grim face on the river banks or joined the rescue campaign in small boats in search of their missing dear ones.

Survivors said most of the passengers were asleep as MV Shariatpur sank while it was coming to Dhaka`s Sadarghat Terminal from Sureshwar in western Shariatpur.
Officials earlier said the exact number of the passengers could not be confirmed as the launch did not maintain a register but estimated that some 300 passengers were on board as it sank under 70 feet water after being hit by a sand-laden cargo in the dark of night.

Most of the passengers were residents of Shariatpur who were coming to the capital to join works or for business purposes while three of the missing passengers were Bangladesh-born US nationals.