14 dead and dozens missing after Myanmar ferry sinks with 'up to 300' on board

Local officials suggest the boat was heavily overcrowded when it capsized in a river

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The Independent Online

At least 14 people have died and dozens more are missing after a ferry sunk in north-west Myanmar.

The boat capsized in the Chindwin river in the Saigaing region of the south-east Asian country, a popular destination for travellers.

A local official said 150 people had been rescued from the river but 85 remained missing. 

"We've just found the exact location of the sunken boat and now we're trying to salvage it using heavy-duty cranes," said Sa Willy Frank, the head of the regional relief department. "A total of 14 bodies have been found and 85 are still missing."

Kyaw Htay Lwin, a member of the area’s regional parliament, suggested the number of people missing could rise once the boat is recovered from the riverbed.

"I heard from witnesses that the boat was packed with at least 300 passengers, despite its official capacity of around 120," he said.

The ferry was travelling from the rural town of Homalin to Monywa when it sank at about 5.00am on Saturday close to Kani, about 85 miles northwest of Myanmar's former royal capital, Mandalay.

Marine accidents are common in Myanmar, where many people rely on travelling using crowded boats that are poorly maintained and prone to accidents. 

Sixty-four people drowned off the western state of Rakhine when an overloaded ferry sank in bad weather in March 2015. 

There have been a number of other ferry accidents in south-east Asia in recent years. In 2014, 304 people, many of them school children, drowned when the MV Sewol boat capsized in South Korea. 

An accident in China in June 2015 saw more than 400 people drown after a passenger vessel capsized during a cyclone.

And last year dozens were killed when a ferry sunk off the Phillipines with 189 passengers on board. At least 26 were reported to have died. 

Additional reporting by agencies.

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