DHAKA: About 400 people were feared drowned in Bangladesh when an overcrowded ferry sank after being sucked into a whirlpool in a rain-swollen river, officials said.
The double-decker Nasreen was on its way from here to Barisal when it nose-dived into the Meghna river at Chandpur, just before midnight on Tuesday.
There was no official word on how many people were on board, but police quoted survivors as saying the ferry was carrying at least 600 passengers, double the licensed capacity, plus cargo it was not permitted to carry. Only 200 survived, they said.
One man said he was travelling on the roof of the vessel and dived off when it began to sink.
“The ferry turned aside suddenly. Within moments it started nose-diving and I jumped into the river,” said Samir Chandra Adhikari. He said he had to swim more than 100m to the riverbank.
Baktiar Alam, police superintendent of Chandpur district, said the ferry sank at 11pm on Tuesday with more than 600 people on board. According to survivors, only 200 swam to safety or were rescued while the rest sank with the ferry, he added.
Among the survivors was 18-month-old Tania. Her parents were missing, feared drowned.
“It's a miracle, no one knows how she survived,” local journalist Shakawat Hossain said.
But about 90 students of an Islamic religious school were among those feared drowned, a surviving fellow student said.
“We were travelling to Lal Mohan on a picnic trip as our madrassa (school) was closed for a summer vacation,” Mohammad Abbas said.
By midday yesterday, three bodies had been recovered from the river and one of the survivors had died in hospital, police said. At least 19 people were being treated for injuries.
Bangladesh navy personnel arrived to help search for the sunken ferry, but strong currents thwarted attempts to anchor their ship. – Reuters