Bangladesh ferry toll hits 78 as more bodies found

Bangladesh ferry toll hits 78 as more bodies found

DHAKA - The death toll in a ferry tragedy in central Bangladesh hit 78 on Wednesday, after rescuers recovered more bodies floating kilometres downstream from the site of Sunday's accident, officials said.

The overcrowded boat sank within minutes of colliding with a cargo vessel on the Padma river in central Bangladesh, which is heavily reliant on ferries for transport but has a poor safety record.

Fishermen alerted rescue workers to seven bodies found some 10 kilometres (six miles) from the site, officials said.

"We've recovered seven bodies today floating downstream," government administrator of the area, Rashida Ferdous, told AFP, adding the death toll now stood at 78, up from 69, after two bodies were also found on Tuesday.

Relatives of a handful of people thought still missing were lining the banks of the Padma, as rescuers continued to scour the river using fishing trawlers and speed boats.

On Monday, rescuers found dozens of bodies inside the lower deck of the small two-deck ferry, after it was raised from 18 feet (six metres) under the water by a crane-fitted salvage vessel.

The government has ordered a probe into the cause of the tragedy, which police said occurred when the cargo boat loaded with fertiliser hit the ferry as both raced to reach a dock.

Three crew of the cargo ship including its captain have been arrested.

Survivors said the boat was overcrowded with around 150 people and those who perished were mostly trapped on the lower deck. Some 50 passengers managed to swim ashore or were rescued by other ferries.

Boat accidents are common in Bangladesh, which is criss-crossed by more than 230 rivers. Ferries do not normally keep passenger lists, making it difficult to establish how many are missing after an accident.

Experts blame poorly maintained vessels, flaws in design and overcrowding for most of the tragedies.

This month, at least five people were killed when an overloaded ferry carrying some 200 passengers capsized in an estuary in the south of the country.

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