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Monday, 13 December, 1999, 10:03 GMT
Many drown as Bangladeshi ferry capsizes

Map of Bangladesh


At least 63 people are reported dead after a ferry disaster on one of Bangladesh's largest rivers.

Officials say the ML Falguni was sailing down the Meghna river from Char Alexander to Bhola, 160km (100 miles) from the capital Dhaka, when it was hit by the bow wave of a passing oil tanker.

The double-decker ferry capsized and sank.

Officials said that around 200 people were on board, although other reports put the figure as high as 300. Many are still unaccounted for.

Some 150 passengers swam to small islands in the river after the ferry went down on Saturday.

Police say the ferry sank 15km (10 miles) from the shore.

Rescuers retrieved 37 bodies from inside and around the sunken vessel, police and officials said, and another 26 bodies were found floating over a wide area of the river far downstream from where the vessel sank.

According to reports, fishermen and relatives continued hunting for missing passengers after the search was officially called off on Sunday evening.

Second disaster

The Meghna, in the southern district of Bhola, is up to 35m (100ft) deep and 23km (15 miles) wide in places. It was the scene of another ferry disaster in May which claimed the lives of 137 people.

The government has called an investigation into the accident. Golam Kabir, deputy director of ports and traffic of Bangladesh's Inland Transport Authority, said the ship was operating on a route prohibited for smaller vessels and did not have a licence for the route.

Ferry disasters are relatively common in Bangladesh, with many lives lost every year as unlicensed vessels go down.

The country is mostly made up of a low-lying river delta comprising of many thousands of kilometres of waterways. Most of the boats in use are ageing and poorly maintained.

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See also:
08 May 99 |  South Asia
Many feared dead in ferry disaster
22 Jul 99 |  South Asia
Floods spell misery for Bangladesh

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