Bangladesh ferry death toll rises to 77

AP News
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Posted: Nov 30, 2009 7:28 AM

The death toll from the capsizing of a ferry over the weekend in southern Bangladesh rose Monday to 77 after rescuers recovered an additional 19 bodies.

Rescuers plucked 15 bloated bodies Monday from River Tetulia, where the overcrowded triple-deck ferry capsized late Friday, police official Mohammad Bayezid said. An additional four bodies were found overnight in the river, he said.

Bayezid said the bloated bodies were found as far away as three miles (five kilometers) from the site of the accident. Rescuers used speedboats to go farther downstream because some bodies may have been washed away during high tide.

Authorities said the search for dozens of people still listed as missing was suspended for the night Monday.

"Our divers have gone inside the submerged part of the ferry and found no more bodies there today," said Shahabuddin Ahmed, a fire brigade official supervising the rescue work. "On Sunday we found bodies mostly inside the submerged ferry. And on Monday, all the bodies were found floating in the river."

The M.V. Coco was packed with hundreds of travelers leaving Dhaka to head home for the Islamic festival of Eid al-Adha when it tilted and went down after reportedly hitting a river shoal.

It started to take on water as it arrived at Nazirhat town in the coastal district of Bhola, about 60 miles (100 kilometers) south of the capital.

Authorities said there were no passenger lists, so it was unclear how many people were aboard the vessel, but Dhaka's private ETV television station said it could have been carrying more than 1,500 people. The boat was approved to carry 1,000 people.

Officials would not say how many remained unaccounted for, but speculation was that the number could be in the dozens.

Ratan Chowkidar, a 60-year-old farmer, was looking for his five missing family members on the bank of the river.

"My son and four other family members were on the ferry," Chowkidar told The Associated by phone from the scene. "I've not found them yet. I don't know if they are alive or dead."