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Tuesday 24 April 2018

40 dead as ferry search called off

Relatives of passengers aboard the sunken ferry watch a rescue operation on the banks of the River Meghna (AP)
Relatives of passengers aboard the sunken ferry watch a rescue operation on the banks of the River Meghna (AP)

Rescuers called off the search for missing passengers of a sunken ferry in central Bangladesh after retrieving 40 bodies, causing anger among relatives of those still unaccounted for.

The chief of Bangladesh's water transport authority, Shamsuddoha Khandaker, said that divers would leave the River Meghna site where the ferry MV Miraz-4 sank in a storm on Thursday.

There was confusion over how many passengers were on board, and the authorities would not provide any complete list.

"We are calling off the search as the ferry has been towed to the bank and we found no more bodies. In total, our rescuers found 40 bodies," he said today.

Ferry operators in Bangladesh usually do not maintain a list of passengers, and none was available in the latest disaster, said local administrator Saiful Hasan.

"I haven't got my brother, where is he? Why do authorities stop searching?" asked Mohammad Moniruzzaman.

Before 11 more bodies were recovered today, police had estimated that at least 100 were still missing.

Rescue diver Masudul Haque said last night he had recovered nine of the bodies but many were still trapped in cabin rooms.

"We have recovered the bodies mainly from the lower deck and other open spaces, but could not open the doors of the cabin rooms where many passengers took shelter after the storm had hit," he said.

"I tried to open those doors but could not as huge volumes of sand have buried many of the doors.

Relatives of the missing and the dead gathered on the banks the Meghna River, near where the boat capsized. Several bodies, covered in cloth, were laid out on the ground.

"I came here yesterday for my brother but I don't have any trace yet. Nobody can assure me of anything," said a sobbing relative, Lokman Hossain.

The ferry was apparently overcrowded and its lower deck was loaded with goods, said Mohammad Ali, a director of the Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Authority.

Officials were investigating whether the vessel was overcrowded or had design faults.

Ferries are a common mode of transport in the populous delta nation, and the Meghna River has been the scene of past accidents.

In 2012, at least 150 people died when a ferry carrying about 200 people capsized at night in the river.

In 2003, an overcrowded ferry capsized in flood-swollen waters at the confluence of the Padma, Meghna and Dakatia rivers near the capital Dhaka. Up to 400 people died.

Press Association

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