Dhaka: Rescuers retrieved 25 bodies from a sunken ferry in Bangladesh, taking the death toll to 54 today as search continued with many more feared to have drowned when the overcrowded vessel capsized two days ago.
Divers recovered nine bodies from inside the sunken launch while the rest were recovered from different points of the river, The Daily Star quoted an administrative official as saying.
The MV Miraj-4 with over 200 people on board capsized in high wind and rain on the Meghna river near suburban Munshiganj on the outskirts of Dhaka on Thursday. Fifty people swam ashore or were rescued soon after the 30 metre-long ferry sank.
The search campaign for those missing was launched afresh today.
Authorities prepared to abandon the drive as navy and coastguard divers recovered more bodies overnight but they changed their decision after protests from angry relatives of the missing passengers.
Of the total, 53 bodies were handed over to the relatives waiting on the bank of the river.
Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Authority (BIWTA) said the sunken ferry had capacity for 122 passengers, but according to survivors and local officials the number of passengers on board was almost double.
"The navy have scoured all corners of the vessel as it was lifted by a crane of our salvage vessel... They don`t expect to find many bodies inside," a BIWTA official said.
The salvage vessels managed to float the sunken ferry and brought it closer to the shore, allowing the divers to search inside, officials said.
Grieving relatives continued to stay back along the river bank enduring the summer heat with many crying in distress and many expressing their anger at the slow pace of the rescue work.
Liton Hossain, a survivor, swam ashore, even as divers retrieved the bodies of his wife and eight-year-old daughter while his six-year-old son was still missing.
Survivors blamed the over-loaded ferry`s captain for refusing to take shelter from a gathering storm over an hour after the vessel left Dhaka`s Sadarghat ferry terminal for its destination in southwestern Shariatpur.
Authorities have formed a three-member committee to investigate the accident and submit its findings in the next seven days.
The accident came less than two weeks after another passenger ferry with over 70 people on board capsized during a seasonal storm in southwestern Bangladesh coast.
Ferry accidents are common in riverine Bangladesh, criss-crossed by some 340 rivers, particularly in monsoon period with experts blaming poorly maintained vessels, flaws in design and overcrowding for the accidents.