Scores missing as ferry collides with boat and sinks in Bangladesh


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The Independent Online

A rescue operation is underway for dozens of people said to be missing after a ferry carrying around 100 passengers sank in a river in Bangladesh after colliding with another boat. The incident took place in the same spot and in similar circumstances to an accident last year that left more than 145 people dead.

Reports said that local people had managed to rescue around 40 of the passengers and that others had managed to swim to shore. However, there was no final word on casualties.

“So far we have gathered that the ferry was carrying around 100 people and some have swum to the banks,” a senior local police official,  Jahangir Hossain, told AFP. District administrator Saifuddin Badal said that more than 50 people were still unaccounted for 

The incident happened on the Meghna river in the district of Munshiganj, located around 20 miles south of Bangladesh’s capital, Dhaka. Local media reports said the ferry, the MV Sarash, was making a journey between Narayanganj city to Matlab, in the south of Bangladesh, when it hit another vessel. It was said to be heavily crowded with passengers at the time of the collision.

Ferries are a common and cheap form of transport in the delta region of Bangladesh, a low-lying nation of around 153m people. Accidents are common-place on the vast river network, partly as a result of over-crowding on the vessels and partly because safety measures are routinely ignored. As many as 4,000 people are estimated to have lost their lives in ferry accidents since 1977.

In March 2012, at least 145 perished when a packed ferry carrying at least 250 people capsized on the Meghna River in the Munshiganj district. In that incident, the MV Shariatpur-1 sank to the bottom of the river after colliding with a cargo ferry. After rescue operations were completed, divers had to be called in to recover the bodies of dozens of victims that were trapped in the wrecked vessel.

Reports said that the exact number of people on board the ferry involved in today’s accident was not clear because passenger lists are not usually accurately maintained. Following the collision, hundreds of relatives of the passengers gathered on the river bank waiting for news.

One onlooker, Khokon Mollik, said he had yet to locate several groups of neighbours who were on the ferry, including 17 members of a family who were traveling to a funeral. “We have found none of them yet,” he told the Associated Press.

In another, earlier deadly accident, around 150 lost their lives in February 2005 when a ferry sank in the Buriganga river on the outskirts of Dhaka. In December 2009, 46 people, mostly women and children, drowned in Daira river in the north-eastern district of Kishorganj after a ferry capsized.