Dhaka: At least 14 people have died and five were still missing after a passenger ferry sank in giant Meghna River in central Bangladesh`s suburban Manikganj, with authorities retrieving 12 bodies overnight.
"We called off the rescue operations after 12 more bodies trapped inside the sunken vessel as it was retrieved from the water," Deputy Commissioner of Munshiganj, Mohammad Saiful Hassan Badal said.
He, however, said at least five bodies were still missing since the MV Sarosh capsized after a collision with a sand laden barge at Gazaria area of Munshiganj yesterday morning in the Meghna, one of the biggest rivers in riverine Bangladesh.
A journalist who witnessed the rescue campaign said six of the dead were children, aged between one and half years and 10 while two of them were retrieved soon after the sinking yesterday.
The ferry was carrying an estimated 100 passengers on board but officials said the exact number of people aboard was uncertain as travellers in most routes buy tickets inboard while the vessel was carrying passengers from the capital Dhaka to the southeastern district Chandpur.
Hundreds of distraught relatives gathered on both sides of the river, anxiously waiting to know the fate of their loved ones while one of the survivors said the missing people included an extended family of 17 who were going to join a relative`s funeral.
Television footages earlier showed a 12-year-old boy Omar Faruk said he could not find his mother.
Unregulated and overcrowded ferries often run in to trouble on riverine Bangladesh, criss-crossed by nearly 300 rivers but most such accidents take place during the monsoon period due to storms or roughness of inflated rivers.
Officials said nearly 90 of the country`s thousands of small and medium-sized boats lacked safety standards despite government vows to crack down on unlicensed operators or unfit vessels.