DHAKA: At least 32 people — all women and children — were killed after a boat carrying around 150 people capsized on a river in northeastern Bangladesh following a collision, police said Sunday.
The overcrowded boat rammed a cargo-laden ship and sank in the middle of the river Surma at Alipur, 240 kilometres (160 miles) northeast of the capital Dhaka, police sub inspector Siraj said.
“At least 32 people are dead, 16 women and 16 children. Most of the male adults have swum ashore and gone back to their villages,” Siraj, who uses only one name, told AFP from the scene of the accident.
He said a number of people were still missing. “We'll get full details of the number of missing after their relatives arrive at the scene tomorrow morning,” he told AFP.
Some 100 people were waiting on the banks of the river early Sunday, including relatives of the victims, he said.
Small fishing boats rescued some survivors from the cold water and managed to raise the two sunken boats and bring them ashore, he said, adding the victims were travelling to the neighbouring district of Kishoreganj.
“We will launch a full rescue operation tomorrow,” he said.
Local government administrator Mohammad Abul Hashem said initial investigations suggested poor visibility on the river was to blame for the accident.
Local police chief Jane Alam said the accident happened in one of the most remote areas of Bangladesh and that it would take hours for officials to reach the site and conduct a full assessment.
“We have confirmation that a boat sunk, at around 9:00pm (1500 GMT) in the night,” he said, adding fire brigade divers would be sent to the site Sunday morning to find any further bodies.
Boat accidents due to lax safety standards and overloading are common in Bangladesh, which is criss-crossed by 230 rivers.
At least 85 people drowned in November last year when the overloaded triple-decker ferry MV Coco-4 capsized off Bhola Island in the country's south.
A week later another boat sank in the same part of the northeast as the current accident, leaving 46 people dead.
So far this year, dozens of people have been killed in several boat accidents in Bangladesh.
Naval architects have said more than 95 percent of Bangladesh's hundreds of thousands of small and medium-sized boats, which are built in the country's numerous shipyards, do not meet minimum safety regulations.
Some 13 per cent of Bangladesh's landmass is made up of rivers, with around 20 million people relying on boats and ferries to travel to the capital or the delta nation's major cities.
Channel News Asia