DHAKA: At least 48 people, including many women and children, were killed today when an overcrowded ferry with over 150 passengers sank in a river in northwestern Bangladesh after colliding with a trawler, the latest maritime tragedy to hit the country.
The ferry, heading to Paturia from Daulatdia in Rajbari, was hit by the cargo trawler in the Padma River – one of the Bangladesh's largest trans-boundary rivers, a senior police official of Manikganj district said.
The site is 40 kilometres northwest from here.
Deputy Assistant director Abdul Halim of Fire Service said they retrieved 48 bodies, Dhaka Tribune reported.
There were conflicting reports as to how many people were travelling in the ferry, with some media outlets putting it at 200 while others put the figure between 100 and 150.
Officials said the district administrations of Rajbari and Manikganj were jointly overseeing the rescue operation. A salvage vessel was on its way to the spot to track down and retrieve the sunken ferry as rescuers feared more bodies could be trapped inside it.
Fire service officials said the ferry was submerged at a depth of up to 6 meters.
"I was on the deck of the ferry when it was struck...I fell into the river like many others who were beside me on the deck but those who were inside the cabins were stuck inside," a passenger told TV channels.
The identities of 30 victims have been ascertained.
Police said the captain of the cargo ship and two crew members of the ferry have been arrested.
'The Daily Star' earlier reported six children and 11 women were among those killed, including a six-month-old girl, who after being rescued from the Padma river in which the ferry sank was later declared dead at the hospital.
The latest maritime tragedy is Bangladesh's deadliest since August last year when around 130 people were killed after a ferry sank in a river.
Ferry disasters are common in Bangladesh due to poor safety standards.
On February 13, at least five persons, including a minor, were killed when an overloaded ferry carrying 200 passengers, mostly devotees, capsized in the Paira River.
Last month, rescuers recovered eight bodies from a fishing boat that capsized in the Bay of Bengal off the Bangladesh coast carrying migrants to Malaysia.