20 killed in Myanmar wedding boat crash

The boat sank on Friday evening in a river near Pathein, a port city west of the commercial capital Yangon.

Police carry a victim’s body to Pathein General Hospital after a boat with 60 passengers returning from a wedding struck a barge and capsized in Pathein river, Myanmar, yesterday. Soe Tun / Reuters
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Yangon // At least 20 people were killed when a boat carrying wedding guests collided with a river barge in western Myanmar, with more feared drowned.

The boat sank on Friday evening in a river near Pathein, a port city west of the commercial capital Yangon.

It was believed to be carrying about 60 passengers on their way home from a wedding ceremony, according to a local police officer.

Of the dead, officials said 16 were women and four were men.

“They were crossing to the other side of the river after attending a wedding in Pathein. Most of them were relatives from the same village,” the officer said.

He said both ships were unlit when they collided in the middle of the river.

“We estimate nine people are still missing,” said Aung Thu Htwe, an MP from the region, adding that about 30 people had been rescued after the collision.

Photos carried by local media showed frenzied scenes rescuers working in the dark as they wheeled stretchers away from the river and lay bodies on the shore.

Authorities resumed the search operation on Saturday morning, the police officer said, but no bodies had been found by midday.

“We will do search and rescue for the whole day,” he said.

Fatal boat accidents are common in Myanmar, a poor country with rudimentary transport and weakly-enforced safety regulations.

Vessels ferrying people along the country’s coastline and rivers are often dangerously overcrowded, and accidents can have staggering death tolls. It can also take several days for all bodies to be retrieved.

Last October 73 people, including many teachers and students, drowned when their overloaded vessel capsized in central Myanmar on the Chindwin river.

About 60 people died in March 2015 when their ferry sank in rough waters off of Myanmar’s western Rakhine state.

* Agence France-Presse