Dhaka: At least 12 people, including a child, today drowned and hundreds were missing when an overcrowded ferry carrying over 200 passengers capsized in a storm in Bangladesh`s Meghna river.
"The storm hit it (ferry) over an hour after it left Dhaka`s Sadarghat ferry terminal for its destination at (southwestern) Shariatpur," Deputy Commissioner of Munshiganj district Saiful Hassan told reporters. "The (death) toll now stands at 12," he said, adding that it was still not clear exactly how many passengers were on the MV Miraj-4 ferry but the number could range from 200 to 350 as it sank mid-river.
Residents in the nearby villages along the bank of the river said some 40-50 people swam ashore or were rescued by boats. One of the survivors, who identified himself as Liton Hossain, swam ashore while coastguard divers retrieved her wife`s body. Their two children ?- eight-year-old daughter and six-year-old son -- were still missing.
There are fears the death toll may rise as many more bodies are believed to be trapped inside the sunken vessel.
A search is underway for the other passengers after the ferry sank in the Meghna river in Munshiganj district this afternoon during a seasonal nor`wester storm.
Shipping officials said two salvage vessels were on their way to the scene from nearby river port town of Narayanganj to locate and retrieve the sunken ferry. Police said fire service rescuers and local people recovered the bodies.
"The search campaign is underway," a police official told newsmen at the scene. One of the divers involved in the rescue effort was quoted by the Daily Star as saying "many bodies" were still trapped inside the vessel. Most of the traumatised survivors blamed the captain and overloading of the vessel for the accident. Authorities have formed a three-member committee to investigate into the accident and submit its report in seven days.
The accident comes less than two weeks after another passenger ferry with over 70 people capsized during a seasonal storm in southwestern Bangladesh. The nor`westers, locally known as `Kalboishakhi`, often hit Bangladesh during the early summer months before the monsoon.