"Divers have recovered 32 bodies from the sunken vessel including five women and three children," Superintendent of Police Tariqul Islam said.
Rescue workers and Naval divers toiled for hours to bring back to surface the sunken double-decker ferry to bring out the trapped passengers, 50 of whom swam to safety.
While media reports identified the boat involved in the tragedy as passenger ferry 'MV Shariatpur', Shipping Minister Shahjahan Khan said it was a commercial-cum passenger ferry carrying sand and chillies bound for Dhaka's Sadarghat Terminal from western Shariatpur when it collided with the oil tanker and sank at about 3 am this morning.
"It is feared that more people are still trapped in the sunken vessel and salvage vessel is making efforts to break into the trapped ferry," he said.
"We fear that the death toll is likely to rise as more bodies are trapped inside," the minister said while local officials said that a better picture of the casualties would be known once the sunken vessel is brought to surface.
The minister said that action would be taken against the owners of the vessel after investigations.
Confusion still prevailed over numbers of passengers involved in the mishap as ferry operators rarely keep a list of passengers. Most passengers buy tickets once on board.
Dhaka: In one of the worst boat tragedies in recent times, at least 32 people, including women and children, were killed and nearly 200 missing when a ferry packed with 300 passengers capsized in a river in central Bangladesh on Tuesday after a head-on collision with an oil tanker.
First Published: Tuesday, March 13, 2012, 11:53