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Search for survivors canceled as ferry number to Bangladesh rises to 34, South Asia News & Top Stories




NARAYANGANJ, Bangladesh (AFP) – The death toll from a ferry accident in Bangladesh over the weekend rose to at least 34 after six more bodies were recovered, officials said on Tuesday (April 6th).

The search for survivors of a ferry disaster in Bangladesh was halted on Monday, officials said, when rescue crews pulled the boat out of the water and found bodies inside.

The one-and-a-half-story ferry took off from the heavily polluted Shitalakshya River in Narayanganj’s central district on Monday, about 18 hours after it sank after a collision with a larger cargo ship on Sunday.

“We found 23 bodies today … Five bodies were found Sunday night,” said local official Mustain Billah. Six children were among the dead, he added.

The ship, named Sabit Al Hasan, sank less than an hour after departing from Narayanganj, 20km from the capital Dhaka, officials said.

A local police inspector said the ferry was packed with passengers after the government confirmed it would impose a seven-day blockade across the country to combat the recent rise in coronavirus cases.

Mr Billah said the ship was carrying at least 46 people when it departed.

“About 20 people swam to safety after the ship sank,” he said.

He said the search operations, which were led by fire divers and other rescuers, were halted on Monday evening after authorities believed no one else was missing.

Hundreds of observers and relatives of the missing had seen from the shore, but many have fled, he said.

“I do not think anyone is missing as most of the relatives have fled the river banks,” Mr Billah said, adding that authorities had ordered an investigation into the accident.

Local police chief Dipak Saha said Sunday rescue efforts had been hampered for hours by a powerful storm that struck after the crash.

Under the blockade, all domestic travel services – including buses, ferries, trains and flights – will be suspended from Monday.

Shops and malls will be closed for a week and a curfew will take effect at night.

Public and private sector businesses were told to have only one skeletal crew in their offices.

Ferry accidents are common in Bangladesh, a delta nation traversed by hundreds of rivers.

Millions of people are heavily dependent on shipping vessels, especially in the southern coastal region of the country, but the vessels have a poor safety record.

Experts blame poor maintenance, poor safety standards on construction sites and overcrowding for many of the accidents.

In June last year, a ferry sank in Dhaka after being hit from behind by another ferry, killing at least 32 people.

In February 2015, at least 78 people died when an overcrowded ship collided with a cargo ship on a river in central Bangladesh.

The number of accidents has dropped significantly in recent years as authorities hit undetected boats.

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