At least 33 bodies, including three children, have been recovered by divers in Bangladesh after a passenger ferry sank in a river following a collision, an official said on Tuesday.
“The passenger ferry capsized Monday morning after colliding with another vessel,” Ziaur Rahman, operating officer at the Fire Service Control, told Anadolu Agency, confirming the death toll.
Dozens are still missing as rescue operations continue in the Buriganga River, which flows past the outskirts of the capital Dhaka.
Firefighters, the coast guard, and naval police units have joined rescue efforts.
The official said that it is yet to be confirmed how many people have been trapped inside the ferry, which is thought to be carrying some 50 people.
Visiting the ferry terminal on Monday, Khalid Mahmud, Bangladesh’s state minister for shipping, assured that the state would provide funds for funerals plus compensation for the victims’ families.
Citing CCTV footage of the incident, Mahmud said, “it appears to be a killing rather than an accident,” local Somoy TV reported on Monday.
He added that the ministry formed a seven-member commission for an investigation into the accident.
Search and rescue operations are underway manually as the rescue ship owned by the Bangladesh Inland Water Authority (BIWTA) could not reach the site of the accident near the terminal.
Mobarak Hossain Mazumder, an official at the BIWTA, told Anadolu Agency that after 26 hours of frantic efforts, the victim vessel Morning Bird was taken ashore.
The rescue operation will continue until there is no claim of missing, he said.
Prottay, a rescue ship heading to the site, got stuck due to the narrow gap between a bridge and river water level at the entry point to the ferry terminal.
The rescue ship and the long bridge were damaged in the incident, disrupting the traffic on the bridge, according to the BIWTA official.
A local passenger rights group, Bangladesh Jatri Kalyan Samity, issued a statement blaming sloppy work at the water terminal for the accident.
Rescued after 13 hours
Meanwhile, police filed a case against seven people over the accident, including the owner of Moyur-2 — the vessel that reportedly hit the ferry.
The case was filed on Monday night, Shah Zaman, officer-in-charge of the police station, confirmed to Anadolu Agency.
Meanwhile, divers of Fire Service and Civil Defence on Monday night rescued a man 13 hours after the ferry sank.
The survivor has been identified as Sumon Bepari, 35, said the police official. He was rescued when the vessel was being pulled manually with air lifting bags.
Bepari is under treatment at the Mitford Hospital in Dhaka, and the victim was in trauma and could not talk immediately, Mazumder said, adding he is now in a good condition.
In a live interview, the survivor told the local TV media that there were about 70 to 80 people trapped inside the sunken vessel, Somoy TV reported.