11/28/2009, 00.00
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Dhaka, a ferry sinks: 20 dead, 100 missing

by William Gomes
The vessel overturned because of overcrowding, it was carrying more than 1000 people. The accident occurred last night at 11.45, during disembarkation. Passengers returning from the capital, after having attended the Muslim festival of Eid al-Adha.

Dhaka (AsiaNews) - 20 dead, including seven children, and over 100 missing.  This is the toll so far from a capsized ferry on the river Tetulia in Bangladesh. The accident occurred last night at 11.45 local time. The vessel capsized under the weight of its excessive load, one of the largest for river navigation, it was carrying between 1000 and 1500 people.

The ferry MV Coco-4 (pictured) overturned near the port of Lalmohan, a town in the district of Bhola, about 300 km south of capital Dhaka. During the disembarkation of passengers the vehicle capsized because of excessive weight and sank. A team of divers intervened to retrieve those trapped.  

Nazrul Islam, police chief Lalmohan, explains that a group of police officers intervened to try to break down one of the doors. "Voices were heard from inside - he says - of desperate people seeking help”.  Meanwhile, the tug "Hamazi" is on its way from Baribal, to raise the ferry and prevent its sinking.  

Rescue teams have so far rescued 50 people, and brought them to hospital in the city. Seven are in a "critical" condition, says the chief of police, and "dozens are still trapped under the water." The majority of passengers on board the MV Coco-4 were returning home after having participated in Dhaka, in a ceremony celebrating the Eid al-Adha, the Muslim festival which commemorates the sacrifice of Abraham.  

Ferry disasters are frequent in Bangladesh, most often caused by overcrowding or lack of safety controls. Over the last 37 years more than 4,200 people have died in shipping accidents. Over 19 thousand vessels between ferries and cargo ships sail on the rivers of the country, most of which do not meet the minimum safety standards set by the government.



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