At least 41 killed in capsized Bangladesh ferry

The ferry was struck by the cargo vessel at the Daulatdia-Paturia crossing on the Padma River on Sunday afternoon

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DHAKA // A river ferry carrying about 100 passengers capsized in central Bangladesh on Sunday after being hit by a cargo vessel, killing at least 41 people including 11 children.

A rescue operation was underway, but it was not clear how many people were missing.

Rescuers managed to save at least 50 passengers and were still searching for more survivors, regional police official Bidhan Tripura.

The ferry was struck by the cargo vessel at the Daulatdia-Paturia crossing on the Padma River on Sunday afternoon, said fire department official Shahzadi Begum. Rescue teams were deployed and passing boats were helping in the operation, he said.

The site is 40 kilometres northwest of Dhaka, Bangladesh’s capital. Ferry accidents are common in Bangladesh, an impoverished South Asian nation that is crisscrossed by more than 130 rivers.

The ferry was submerged at a depth of up to 6m, said Inspector Zihad Mia, who is overseeing the rescue operation.

By evening, at least 41 bodies had been recovered but “we don’t have a clear picture about how many were exactly in the ferry when it sank”, Mr Mia said.

Ferries in Bangladesh usually do not maintain formal passenger lists.

A passenger who survived said many people got trapped inside when the ferry sank. "The passengers who were on the deck have survived, but many who were inside got trapped," Hafizur Rahman Sheikh told the Prothom Alo newspaper.

The Padma is one of the largest rivers in Bangladesh, where overcrowding and poor safety standards are often blamed for ferry disasters.

Last August, a ferry with a capacity of 85 passengers was found to be carrying more than 200 when it capsized on the Padma near Dhaka, leaving more than 100 people dead or missing. The ferry’s owner was arrested after weeks in hiding on charges of culpable homicide, unauthorised operation and overloading.

* Associated Press, additional reporting from Reuters