At least 48 people were killed in central Bangladesh today when a river ferry carrying up to 140 passengers capsized after being hit by a cargo vessel, officials said. A rescue operation was under way, but it remained unclear how many passengers were still missing.
The ferry was struck by the cargo vessel at the Daulatdia-Paturia crossing on the Padma river on Sunday afternoon, said fire-department official Shahzadi Begum. Rescue teams had been deployed and passing boats were helping in the operation, she said.
The ferry, the M.L. Mosta, was submerged at depths of up to 6 metres, according to Inspector Zihad Mia, who is overseeing the operation.
A passenger who survived said many people got trapped inside when the ferry sank.
"The passengers who were on the deck have survived, but many who were inside got trapped," Hafizur Rahman Sheikh was quoted as saying by the Prothom Alo newspaper.
Mr Sheikh said the cargo vessel hit the middle of the ferry.
Authorities ordered an investigation into the accident and a five-member committee has been asked to submit a report within 15 days, the Ministry of Shipping said in a statement.
The Padma is one of the largest rivers in Bangladesh, where overcrowding and poor safety standards are often blamed for ferry disasters.
Last August, a ferry with a capacity of 85 passengers was found to be carrying more than 200 when it capsized on the Padma near Dhaka, leaving more than 100 people dead or missing. The ferry's owner was arrested after weeks in hiding on charges of culpable homicide, unauthorised operation and overloading.
At least five people were killed earlier this month when a ferry sank in southern Bangladesh.