(dpa ) – At least 26 people have been died after a passenger ferry was hit by a cargo vessel sank in a Bangladeshi river near Dhaka, officials said on Monday.
Rescuers found 21 more bodies inside the ferry, Commodore Golam Sadeq, head of Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Authority (BIWTA), said as the rescue operation was called off.
The rescue team, made up of navy, coast guard, police and the fire service and civil defence department staff, took 18 hours to salvage and tow the ferry ashore, he said.
Five bodies were found adrift hours after the double-decker ferry carrying more than 50 passengers sank on Sunday, after being hit by a cargo vessel in the Shitalakshya River near Madanpur of Narayanganj district, said Mobarak Hossain, another BIWTA officer.
Television footage aired live from the scene showed rescuers retrieving the bodies as the ferry was towed to the river bank. Several thousand people crowded at the scene.
Victims’ relatives at the accident site, nearly 30 kilometres south of Dhaka, initially reported that 33 people were missing, according to local government official Nahida Barek.
But Sadeq said many of the passengers managed to swim ashore and that coast guards would continue a search operation in case anyone was still missing.
Brief amateur video footage showed the ferry, which was travelling from Narayanganj to the neighbouring Munshiganj district, sank immediately after it was hit by the vessel from the rear.
The cargo vessel has not yet been traced.