Bangla ferry mishap toll climbs to 114

With the recovery of scores of bodies from the wreckage of a ferry that capsized in Bangladesh, the death toll climbed to 114.

Dhaka: With the recovery of scores of bodies from the wreckage of a ferry that capsized in Bangladesh, the death toll climbed to 114 on Wednesday as rescuers and naval divers wrapped up the salvage operation after raising the ill-fated vessel from the river bed and bringing it to the shore.

The ferry `MV Shariatpur-1` had collided head-on with a cargo vessel and capsized at 3 am local time yesterday in Meghna river, trapping most of the estimated 300 passengers on board in one of the worst boat tragedies in Bangladesh in recent times.

"The salvage operations is over," Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Authority (BIWTA) chairman Dr Shamsuddoha Khandker told reporters.

The sunken double-decker vessel was retrieved from under 70 feet waters, 37 hours after it capsized in the river in Munshiganj area, and towed to the river bank, officials said.

The death toll rose to 112 after rescuers recovered scores of bodies today, they said, adding the salvage operation had been wrapped up. However, unconfirmed reports put the toll as high as 114.

The dead included women and children, the officials said. "... Possibilities are bleak about finding more bodies," Munshiganj`s police chief Shahabuddin Khan Said.

He said relatives in small boats who had joined navy, coastguard and fire service operators in searching for the missing people had withdrawn gradually.

Officials said all the bodies recovered today were inside the vessel while the 36 bodies retrieved yesterday were found floating on the river around the accident scene at Gazaria area of suburban Munshiganj.

Rescue officials acknowledged that 16 people remained missing according to the complaints by relatives.

Some people were still searching for their relatives in small boats despite the withdrawal of navy, coastguard and fire service divers from the scene.

Witnesses from the scene earlier said a salvage vessel pulled up the backside of the ill fated Shariatpur-1 ferry upwards through a crane, allowing rescuers to look for bodies inside.

The relatives wailed every time the rescuers brought a body for identification. A 10-year old boy cried out "here is my mother, here is mother" and rushed into the water as a diver brought the body of one burqa-clad woman.

Rescuers made their way inside the ferry when the salvage campaign resumed this morning after it was temporarily stalled last night.

The accident perished two entire families and at least four minor children.
Survivors said most of the passengers were asleep when MV Shariatpur sank while it was coming to Dhaka`s Sadarghat Terminal from Sureshwar in western Shariatpur.

Officials had 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 work or for business purposes while three of the missing passengers were Bangladesh-born US nationals.

Over 50 passengers swam to safety while others were rescued by two passing ferries and fishing boats nearby. The master of one of the ferries said he stopped his launch hearing screams and seeing people floating in the mid river.

Ferry boats are the main form of travel in river criss- crossed Bangladesh and often ply overloaded.

Thirty-two people were killed in April last year when a passenger vessel sank in the Meghna River after colliding with a cargo ship. In 2009, at least 85 people drowned when an overloaded triple-decker ferry capsized off Bhola Island in
southern Bangladesh.


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