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Ferry sinks in south Bangladesh

19 February 09 15:08 GMT

At least 17 people have been killed and an unknown number are missing after a ferry sank in southern Bangladesh, police and media say.

The ferry capsized following a collision with a cargo boat in dense fog on the Kirtankhola river.

Reports on the number of passengers ranged from 60 to 150. Officials have now called off the search.

Boat and ferry accidents are common in Bangladesh's many rivers, due to poor safety standards and overloading.

Seized

Local police official Nuruzzaman Chowdhury told the Associated Press news agency the accident took place near the town of Barisal, about 170km (106 miles) south of the capital, Dhaka.

Reports said dozens of people were rescued or managed to swim to safety, but that the number of fatalities was expected to rise.

Local media put the number of those missing at between 15 and 50.

Hundreds of onlookers and anxious relatives have been waiting on the riverbank for news.

Mr Chowdhury said the cargo vessel had been seized.

Local TV reports said the 20m (60ft) ferry - the ML Happy - was travelling from Barisal to Mehendiganj.

One survivor, Jasmine Aktar, 30, told reporters: "I survived by swimming to the shore, but I have three young children missing."

In July 2003, at least 500 people died when a ferry sank in the Meghna river.

A year later another ferry sank on the same river, killing up to 200.

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