Death Toll In Bangladesh Ferry Sinking Rises To 66

Rescue workers searching a ferry in Bangladesh which sank on Tuesday with around 200 people on board have now found 66 bodies.

The search for survivors and bodies from the ferry accident gets underway in Munshigong, Bangladesh The rescue operation underway to recover passengers after

Rescue workers searching a ferry in Bangladesh which sank on Tuesday with around 200 people on board have now found 66 bodies.

Recovery ships have pulled the ferry close to shore and plan to re-float it.

About 50 people swam to safety after the Shariatpur-1 collided with a small oil tanker in the Meghna River, south-west of the capital Dhaka.

Ferry accidents are common on Bangladesh's vast river network and scores are killed every year.

Officials say more bodies were found after the ship was pulled into shallower waters, and many more are still thought to be trapped inside.

Hundreds of people, including some desperate relatives, gathered on the river banks during the rescue operation as bodies were extracted from the water.

Laws flouted

The BBC's Ethirajan Anbarasan - who is on a boat at the scene of the disaster - says the river is about 4km (2.5 miles) wide with a strong current. The ferry is believed to be in water about 21m (70ft) deep.

Our correspondent says it is not possible to say exactly how many people were on board, because passenger lists are rarely compiled on Bangladeshi ferries and many buy their tickets when on board.

The ferry was reportedly travelling to Dhaka from the Shariatpur district when the collision happened during the night.

Some of the rescued passengers said that it was overcrowded and was also carrying dozens of sacks of chillies.

One survivor, Mohammed Belal, told the BBC the ferry was almost turned upside down by the collision.

"Some of us managed to jump out through the windows," he said, "and some of us were hanging by the rails".

"We yelled 'save us, save us' and that's when another ferry threw some ropes into the water.

"Everybody was frantically running around. Some of us were able to jump out but many didn't."

Most ferry accidents in the country are blamed on poor safety standards and overcrowding.

Shahabuddin Milon, deputy head of the Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Association, told the BBC's Bengali Service that many cargo boats flout the law banning them from night-time travel, endangering passengers.

Last April, at least 23 people died after a ferry carrying more than 100 passengers capsized in the east of the country.

In June 2010, about a dozen people were killed after a packed ferry capsized in storms in north-east Bangladesh and in November 2009, 118 people died in two ferry accidents within a week.

Boats are the main form of travel in parts of rural Bangladesh - a country that is crisscrossed by rivers and waterways.

The authorities are repeatedly criticised for failing to honour their pledges to tackle lax safety standards.

Local government spokesman Azizul Alam said that an investigation has been ordered into the cause of the latest sinking.