Bangladesh ferry disaster: Overcrowding blamed, dozens killed



Authorities in Bangladesh have blamed overcrowding for the sinking of a ferry that has killed at least 61 people, with many passengers still missing two days after the disaster.

A five-member committee is investigating Sunday’s accident, with initial reports suggesting the boat was carrying nearly three times its capacity, said Jahurul Islam, chief administrator of the northern district of Panchagarh.

“Divers are searching for more bodies as some are still missing,” he said, adding that the bodies of 28 women and 18 children have been recovered so far.

The small boat packed with Hindu devotees on their way to a popular temple flipped over in the Karatoya River as onlookers watched in horror from the shore near Boda town in Panchagarh.

Police said that while some of the passengers managed to swim ashore or were rescued, about 10 were still missing. Passengers said more than 80 people were on board.

Boda police chief Sujay Kumar Roy said rescue workers, including firefighters, navy divers and villagers, were searching for miles downstream on the river.

A relative of a victim who died in the boat tragedy on the Karotoya River [Firoz Al Sabah/AFP]

Onlookers and relatives of the missing gathered along the riverbank as rescuers searched for bodies, witnesses said.

“I just want to see the face of my mother,” Deepak Chandra Roy said, speaking through tears as he searched for his mother.

“Three women of my family were missing since the boat capsized,” said one distraught relative, Bikash Chandra. “We found one in the morning around 10am, who was rescued earlier. But I couldn’t find the other two yet.”

The death toll was the worst for a maritime disaster in the country since 2015, when at least 78 people died after an overcrowded ferry collided with a cargo vessel in a river west of the capital, Dhaka.

Dozens of people die each year in ferry accidents in Bangladesh, a low-lying country that has extensive inland waterways and lax safety standards.

At least 26 people died in May after an overcrowded speedboat collided with a sand-laden bulk carrier and sank on the Padma River.

Last December, some 40 people perished when a packed three-storey ferry caught fire in southern Bangladesh.

A ferry sank in Dhaka in June 2020 after a collision with another vessel, killing at least 32 people. Meanwhile, in 2015, at least 78 people perished when an overcrowded ship collided with a cargo vessel in a river west of the capital.