48 dead in Bangladesh ferry capsize
A ferry carrying up to 140 passengers has capsized in central Bangladesh after being hit by a cargo vessel, killing at least 48 people.
A rescue operation is under way on the Padma River, about 25 miles north-west of the capital Dhaka, but it is not clear how many people remain missing.
The ferry was struck by the cargo vessel at the Daulatdia-Paturia crossing this afternoon, fire department official Shahzadi Begum said. Rescue teams were deployed and passing boats are helping in the operation.
The ferry, the ML Mosta, was submerged at a depth of up to 20ft, inspector Zihad Mia, who is overseeing the rescue operation, said.
By this evening, at least 48 bodies had been recovered.
Mr Mia said officials are yet to determine how many passengers are missing. Ferries in Bangladesh do not usually maintain formal passenger lists.
"We don't have a clear picture about how many were exactly in the ferry when it sank," Mr Mia said. "But I think many have survived."
Jewel Mia, an official from the Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Authority, told reporters at the scene that up to 140 people were on board when the ferry sank.
A passenger who survived said many people got trapped inside when the ferry sank.
"The passengers who were on the deck have survived, but many who were inside got trapped," Hafizur Rahman Sheikh was quoted as saying by the Prothom Alo newspaper.
Mr Sheikh said the cargo vessel hit the middle of the ferry.
Authorities ordered an investigation into the accident and a five-member committee has been asked to submit a report within 15 days, the Ministry of Shipping said in a statement.
The Padma is one of the largest rivers in Bangladesh, where overcrowding and poor safety standards are often blamed for ferry disasters.
Last August, a ferry with a capacity of 85 passengers was found to be carrying more than 200 when it capsized on the Padma near Dhaka, leaving more than 100 people dead or missing. The ferry's owner was arrested after weeks in hiding on charges of culpable homicide, unauthorised operation and overloading.
At least five people were killed earlier this month when a ferry sank in southern Bangladesh.