Hindu pilgrims' boat sinks in a river: 31 dead and dozens missing
by Sumon Corraya

The tragedy occurred in the Panchagarh district in the far north of the country. Entire families were on their way to a temple for the Mahalaya festival. At the origin of the disaster was allegedly the overcrowding of the hulls. Every year in Bangladesh hundreds of people are killed by shipwrecks on rivers.

Dhaka (AsiaNews) - At least 31 people, mostly Hindu pilgrims, drowned yesterday when a motorboat with over 100 passengers on board capsized in the Karatoya river, in the Boda sub-district of Panchagarh in far northern Bangladesh. Most of them were on their way to celebrate the Hindu religious festival of Mahalaya.

The worshippers,' recounted Mukol Chandra Roy, one of the survivors, 'were on their way with their families to the temple facing the Karatoya river. The boat was overloaded and started to sway in the middle of the river. The sailor tried to pull it back, but the hull capsized. Among the victims 9 were children and 13 were women.

Roy informed that he, his wife Joyanti Rani and his brother Adito Roy's son managed to save themselves by swimming, but many did not make it back. "Many Hindu worshippers died before our eyes," he explained.

Police and fire brigade carried out rescue operations with boats. 20 of the rescued people were hospitalised at the Boda sub-district health complex. According to the authorities, however, there are still dozens of people missing.

"We were on duty at Aulia Ghat since the morning," said Matiar Rahman, a policeman on duty in the area. "We were forbidding boatmen to cross with other passengers. But nobody listened to us. People did not listen to us. As soon as the boat was able to sail, they got on. That's how the accident happened".

Zahurul Islam - deputy commissioner of Panchagarh, who was present at the scene - confirmed to AsiaNews that there were more passengers on the boat than capacity. Every year, hundreds of people die in ferry and boat accidents in Bangladesh, a country that has extensive inland waterways but lax safety standards.