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Sunday, May 9, 1999 Published at 22:44 GMT 23:44 UK

World: South Asia

Hope fades for ferry survivors

Relatives watch rescue operations after the ferry capsized

Officials in Bangladesh say there is little chance of finding any more survivors from the ferry which capsized during a storm in the south of Bangladesh on Saturday.

About 100 people survived, but more than 200 people are known to have died in the disaster.

The BBC's David Chazan: Little hope of more survivors
Officials also say the ferry was not licensed to carry passengers on the section of the River Meghna where the accident occured.

All passenger traffic on the river has been suspended until October, when the rainy season ends.

Strong currents

[ image: Bangladeshi ferries are notoriously overcrowded]
Bangladeshi ferries are notoriously overcrowded
The accident happened near the town of Lakshmipur, 175km (110 miles) from the capital, Dhaka, in a stretch of river more than 14km wide with strong currents.

The vessel was believed to have been heading for Lakhsmipur from Barisal, further south.

Some survivors said the boat was swamped by three huge waves, while others said it had been caught in a whirlpool.

Reports said the boat was carrying between 300 and 400 people - roughly double its capacity. The passengers were mostly farmers.

People were thrown overboard as the ferry turned over. Fishing boats picked up more than 100 survivors, but most of the others are unaccounted for.

Tropical storm

"The ferry tilted on one side and sank in midstream immediately after being caught in a tropical storm at 1100 (0500GMT)," one survivor was quoted as saying.

"The ferry was overcrowded and was running at speed in heavy current," he added.

The BBC correspondent in Dhaka, David Chazan, says such disasters happen several times a year in Bangladesh.

The country is mostly made up of a low-lying river delta with thousands of kilometres of waterways. Many boats are ageing and poorly maintained.

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