Bangladesh calls off search for sunken boat
August 11 2014 11:03 PM

 Desperate relatives try to locate the sunken ferry themselves with a fishing trawler.



Bangladeshi rescuers yesterday called off their search for a heavily overloaded river boat that sank a week ago drowning scores of passengers, an official said.

Rescuers have recovered 46 bodies from the river in Munshiganj district where the ferry, carrying more than 200 passengers, sank in rough conditions last Monday.

The search for the remaining victims would continue in the river, an official said, although the number of missing has been revised down from 130 to 61.

Chief rescue official Saiful Hasan said the search for the boat itself, which was licensed to carry just 85 passengers, was being abandoned after fruitless efforts and ongoing bad weather.

“We’ve called off the search as we’ve failed to locate it despite using latest technology,” Hasan, the district’s chief administrator, said.

“The river’s behaviour is also very erratic due to inclement weather,” he said.

“We have verified the list of the missing people and 61 people are now confirmed missing,” he added.

Though the rescue operation was called off officially, the authorities have decided to keep a rescue vessel, either Nirvik or Rustom, on standby.

The meteorological department asked the Maritime Ports authorities to hoist signal No3 due to the bad weather.

Hasan said desperate relatives were trying to locate the sunken ferry themselves by hiring fishing trawlers, fearing that their loved ones might still be trapped inside.

Asked whether they were doing it on their own, Hasan said the shipping minister and officials of Lauhajang had directed them to carry out the search following a meeting with the locals at Mawa terminal on Friday. He said they have done this type of work in the past.

The ferry was packed with people returning from their villages following the Eid holiday when it sank in the Padma, the main distributary of the Ganges River, about 30km south of Dhaka.

Rescuers found a metallic object in the river that they say could be of the sunken boat but was yet to confirm, he told reporters.

A survey vessel from its side-scan sonar picked up signals of the “metallic object” on Saturday.

Ferry accidents are common in Bangladesh, with overcrowding and poor ship design and maintenance often to blame.

Bangladesh is criss-crossed by more than 230 rivers. Boats are the main form of travel, especially in the southern and northeastern regions.

Officials have said more than 95% of Bangladesh’s hundreds of thousands of small and medium-sized boats do not meet minimum safety regulations.





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