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Bangladesh Ferry Accident Kills 60 - 2003-04-05

At least 60 people were killed in Bangladesh when a ferry capsized, and about a dozen are still missing.

The ferry was packed with more than 150 passengers when it collided with a cargo vessel and sank in River Surma. The accident occurred Friday night near the industrial town of Chatak, about 200 kilometers northeast of the capital Dhaka.

Police officials say many of the victims were women and children. The bulk of the passengers on the boat were laborers and their families, and many of the men were reportedly traveling on the roof of the boat. They managed to swim to safety, while the women and children inside the boat were trapped.

Local villagers helped in the rescue of survivors, and efforts to find more survivors were continuing Saturday. It is not clear exactly how many people are missing, because ferries traveling on local routes often do not keep passenger lists.

Authorities say the crew of the boat fled after the accident.

Ferries are a popular and cheap mode of transport in Bangladesh, a low-lying country crossed by hundreds of wide and navigable rivers. But the country has been plagued by ferry disasters. According to official statistics, about 250 ferry accidents in the past 25 years have resulted in more than two-thousand deaths. Most of the accidents are blamed on severe overloading, and on poor maintenance of the boats.

One of the worst accidents occurred in May of last year, when about 500 people were killed after a 100 ton vessel sank. Following that accident, the authorities promised stricter enforcement of laws penalizing those responsible for ferry disasters.