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Grim search for ferry victims

A group of people on boats look for their missing relatives in the Meghna River  

Staff and wires

DHAKA, Bangladesh -- Bangladesh navy frogmen joined the grim search for bodies at first light after a ferry sank in a storm with scores of people on board.

Police, volunteers and divers from the Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Authority resumed their work on Sunday after bad weather halted the search overnight, officials said.

The triple-decked M.V. Salahuddin-2 sank in the giant Meghna River at around midnight on Friday on its way to the coastal district of Patuakhali from Dhaka.

It went down near Shatnal, a rural area 170 km (100 miles) south of the capital, where the Meghna meets its tributaries and often floods its banks.

Hundreds are missing from a ferry that sank on the Meghna River in Bangladesh (May 4)

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Strong currents in the river hampered rescue efforts on Saturday, but rescue workers were able to spot a sunken ferry some 20 meters below the surface of the river.

Bangladesh police said they will not know how many passengers died or were swept away by strong river currents until the boat is brought back to the surface.

Hundreds of relatives waited near the scene of the accident for word. Initial reports put the possible death toll in the hundreds, but the passenger count has been revised from 400 to 150.

Rescuers so far have found the bodies of just two women and a child and pulled nearly 100 survivors to safety.

Police said new storms swept parts of Bangladesh on Saturday, killing at least 13 people. Weather officials said they expected more storms and rain in the next few days.


The exact cause of the ferry capsize was still not clear, with survivors saying the ferry was overloaded and listed on one side when the storm struck.

Officials and police said most of the victims could have been swept away by strong currents and might be washed ashore downstream in the next few days.

A Bangladeshi Navy diver starts a rescue operation in the Meghna River Saturday.  

An investigation is under way.

A delta nation of 130 million people crisscrossed by many rivers, Bangladesh is plagued by such accidents as crew often ignore storm warnings and flout maximum-capacity and safety rules.

Ferries typically don't keep a complete record of passengers as many people buy tickets after boarding the vessel.

The Meghna is a 130-mile river that flows south from northeastern Bangladesh to the Bay of Bengal. It is an important inland waterway that is heavily traveled by river ferries.

At least 100 people were killed when an overcrowded ferry was caught in a storm in May and sank in the Meghna River, and a ferry sinking in the same river in 1986 left at least 224 dead.

Laws penalizing those responsible for ferry accidents are rarely enforced in Bangladesh.

The ferry collapse is part of a week of tropical storms, lightning and storm-related boat capsizes that killed at least another 67 people and injured hundreds across Bangladesh, officials and media reports said Saturday.


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