UPDATES DEATH TOLL, EDIT THROUGHOUT
By SM Najmus Sakib
DHAKA, Bangladesh (AA) - Rescuers on Monday recovered 26 more bodies from a boat capsize in Bangladesh’s northern district of Panchagarh taking the total death count to 51, officials confirmed.
The passenger boat, carrying mostly Hindu pilgrims, capsized on Sunday while it was heading toward a temple for a religious festival, according to police.
"Twenty five people are still missing," additional district magistrate Dipankar Roy told Anadolu Agency, while also confirming the death toll.
The bodies were recovered from the Atrai River in Dinajpur, which flows through the northern parts of Bangladesh.
Officials feared the death count could increase further as strong currents could have taken bodies away in the Karatoya River that flows through the district.
On duty emergency officials told Anadolu Agency that the rescue operation was suspended for Monday night and will resume Tuesday morning.
Md Mahbubul Islam, deputy director of the Bangladesh Fire Service and Civil Defense in Panchagarh district, told Anadolu Agency that a divers team recovered the bodies some 30 kilometers (18.6 miles) away from the spot of the incident.
Subhash Chandra Roy, a passenger who survived the boat sinking, told local TV Channel24 that he had boarded the boat with five friends to join the religious festival.
“I was among some 150 passengers in the boat. Soon after we boarded the boat, water started entering the boat, and people started screaming. The drowning passengers were trying to catch each other and begging to be saved,” he recalled.
Meanwhile, a five-member probe body headed by a district official was formed to investigate the incident.
The officials said that the accident occurred due to overcrowding. The overloaded small passenger boat was carrying over 100 people in the Karatoya River in Boda town, they added.
According to the records of the Shipping Department of Bangladesh, more than 550 passenger ships capsized between 1991 and 2020, killing over 3,600 people and leaving nearly 500 people missing.
The delta nation of nearly 170 million people is crisscrossed by more than 500 rivers.
Seasonal natural calamities such as storms and cyclones, foggy weather in winter, lack of vessel fitness, unskilled drivers, and overloading have been identified as the main causes of those accidents.