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Hundreds missing in ferry tragedy

Relatives gathered to mourn the dead.

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(CNN) -- Hundreds were feared drowned after a crowded passenger ferry sank in a river in southern Bangladesh.

The ferry was traveling southeast from the capital Dhaka when it sank late Tuesday near the town of Chandpur about 100 meters from shore.

About 250 people either swam to shore or were rescued by local fishermen, Tony Maryon, the head of International Red Cross in Bangladesh told CNN.

Government officials put the number of survivors at 100. An investigation is underway to determine the cause of the accident.

Survivors said over 800 people were on board the multi-deck boat, adding to speculation the ferry was overloaded, Maryon said. Transportation officials said up to 500 people were riding the ferry.

Survivors said the ferry sank after it hit turbulent waters where the Padma, Meghna and Dakatia Rivers merge.

Crowds watch rescue operations at bank of river Meghna
Crowds watch rescue operations at bank of river Meghna

"This particular part of the river is particularly dangerous, there is a strong current and, with the monsoon season, the rivers are very swollen," Maryon told CNN.

"There was a small sinking near this particular spot a few days ago. This is a very dangerous area."

Rescue units were notified immediately after the boat capsized around 11 p.m. Tuesday (1700 GMT) and the local Red Crescent has set up medical and relief facilities at the scene.

Hundreds of people die in Bangladesh each year due to frequent ferry accidents, which are often blamed on overloading, poor construction and a lack of safety measures.

"It is one of the big problems in Bangladesh, a lot of the problems relate to overloading," Maryon said.

Three separate incidents in April this year left more than 100 dead.

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