Dozens killed, others missing after boat capsizes in Bangladesh

Ahammad Foyez
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Dozens killed, others missing after boat capsizes in Bangladesh Locals, and relatives of passengers missing in the ferry accident wait on the banks of the Karatoa River in Panchagarh district, northern Bangladesh, Sept. 24, 2022.

At least 24 people were killed and others were reported missing after an overcrowded boat capsized in northern Bangladesh on Sunday afternoon, officials said about the worst ferry accident in the country since December.

Locals and survivors said the boat was filled to more than twice its capacity, a familiar story in the South Asian country where 286 people were killed in waterway accidents between 2017 and 2021.

The ferry carrying more than 100 passengers, most of them Hindu devotees, overturned around 2:30 p.m. on the Karatoa River in Panchagarh district as the devotees were returning from attending a religious event at a temple across the waterway, in Boda, officials said.

Of those who died, 12 were women, eight were children, and four were men – all but one victim were devotees, said S.M. Sirajul Huda, the Panchagarh superintendent of police.

“A total of 24 were killed and 20 are still missing in the accident, until Sunday night,” Huda told BenarNews, adding that the death toll may increase.

“Rescuers are still searching for the bodies of the missing people and the search will continue until tomorrow [Monday].”

The bodies of 16 people were recovered from the river while eight died in the hospital, the police officer said. He said that 44 people were rescued from the river alive, and many of the passengers managed to swim ashore to safety.

A Panchagarh fire official said the ferry was overloaded.

“The engine-boat had been carrying more than 100 people while it had a capacity of carrying 50 passengers,” Sheikh Md. Mahbub Islam, station assistant director for Panchagarh Fire Service and Civil Defense, told BenarNews:

A local resident, Mohammad Azam Ali, told reporters that the boat capsized minutes after it left on its trip.

“It was an overloaded boat; many women passengers were standing in the boat with their children,” Ali said.

The Panchagarh district civil administration head Md. Zahurul Islam told reporters he had formed a five-member investigation committee and asked it to submit its probe report in three days.

“Primarily, we got information that the boat was overloaded, and when it started to ply it immediately capsized in the river. But the issue needs to be investigated,” he said.

Islam said that the government would give 20,000 taka (U.S. $192.77) to victims’ families, while the injured will get financial support for treatment.

According to him, the people of Panchagarh district said they had never seen such an accident on the Karatoa River.

The incident has again put a spotlight on the abysmal safety record of ferries and other forms of public transportation along Bangladesh’s many waterways.

Over the past decade, about 700 people have been killed in more than 200 accidents involving ferries and other vessels used for public transportation, according to a BenarNews review of government records in the wake of a ferry fire in December that claimed 50 lives.

About 2,500 ferries carry passengers along hundreds of miles of rivers throughout Bangladesh.


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