A cargo truck packed with schoolboys returning home from a soccer match crashed into a canal in southeastern Bangladesh on Monday, killing 44 passengers, police said. The driver fled and was being sought for arrest.
Rescuers had pulled out the vehicle in the evening as they continued searching for survivors or bodies in the small ditch filled with recent rains. Military troops joined the rescue, and doctors from nearby towns were deployed to help the survivors.
The cargo truck had been hired to take the students home after they watched the tournament, police official Iftekhar Hasan said. Hiring such trucks is a usual practice in Bangladesh for a quick group ride during festivals or celebrations.
"According to several witnesses the boys were singing and dancing on board the truck," said Hasan. "The truck skidded off the muddy road and turned (over) as it plunged into the canal."
By late Monday, authorities ended the search and opened an investigation, Hasan told The Associated Press by phone from the scene.
About 60 people, mostly children between ages 8 and 12, were on the vehicle that crashed, Hasan said. One person who died was 30 and three others were between 17 and 20, he said.
The driver survived and fled immediately after the crash, Hasan said.
"We have got the driver's name, we are checking his background," he said. "Our team will arrest him."
The cause of the crash wasn't known, but one report said the driver was talking on his phone and lost control while trying to give room for a vehicle coming from the opposite direction. It occurred in Chittagong district, 216 kilometers (136 miles) southeast of the capital, Dhaka.
Rescuers recovered 44 bodies from the wreckage and returned them to their families. Hasan said at least 12 children were being treated at hospitals but could not give an exact figure of the survivors.
Residents from about 10 villages joined an Islamic funeral prayer late Monday at a school in the area as authorities and relatives prepared for the burials of the victims, mostly Muslims, Hasan said.
Earlier angry residents had vandalized some vehicles in the area as they complained the rescuers were late to reach the scene. Video footage showed some relatives of the dead wailing at their homes and in the hospitals.
President Zillur Rahman and Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina condoled the deaths.
Road accidents are common in Bangladesh due to reckless driving, lax traffic rules and poor road conditions. An independent research group says about 12,000 Bangladeshi people annually die in such accidents.