At least 118 people were feared dead after an overcrowded ferry with up to 250 passengers on board sank in the Padma river in central Bangladesh, as the efforts to locate the vessel under deep waters is still underway. “Five more bodies were retrieved on Tuesday as they were found afloat from Hymechar,” an area which is located miles downstream off the accident site at central Munshiganj, magistrate Abul Kalam told reporters.
His comments came after officials said that 118 passengers remained missing with rescuers fearing they were trapped inside the sunken Pinak-6 or washed away by the strong currents of the Padma, swelled by monsoon rains. Strong current in the turbulent river apparently upturned the boat on Monday, which was carrying nearly double the number of passengers then its capacity as it was crossing the Padma.
Over 100 passengers, however, were rescued alive by vessels and speedboats within hours after the accident. Authorities mobilised two salvage vessels to retrieve the ferry while navy and coastguard divers joined the fire brigade rescuers but officials said the strong current and the bad weather made it difficult for them to locate it under water.
An official of the Bangladesh Water Transport Authority, however, admitted their sonar system with capacity to scan a smaller area appeared a little ineffective in tracking down the ferry as the underwater heavy current might have pushed the vessel elsewhere from the site where it sank. Hundreds of wailing relatives, rallied on the bank of the river, staged a brief blockade on a nearby highway protesting the “inefficiency” of the authorities as they could not even locate the sunken vessel.
Experts said even if the vessel could be located it would not be an easy job to retrieve the estimated 100-tonne ferry from under nearly 90 feet depth. They said divers would have to go down and tie up the sunken vessel and have it pulled up. The accident occurred nearly three months after a boat capsized in the same area killing 50 people.
Ferry accidents are common in riverine Bangladesh criss-crossed by some 230 river especially in the southern and northeastern regions while faulty design of boats and ferries alongside poor safety standards are generally blamed for the disasters. According to statistics tallied by the media, about 5,500 people have died in 658 ferry disasters since 1994 while 1500 people remained missing.