02/23/2015, 00.00
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Ferry and cargo ship collide in Bangladesh's Padma River, killing at least 69

by Sumon Corraya
About 150 people were on board, but there is no official passenger list. The cargo ship's captain has been arrested. Rescuers continue searching for survivors, but hope to find people alive is fading. Relatives are desperate. Government and district leaders announce compensation for the victims' families.

Manikganj (AsiaNews) - "Please, give me my mother, my sister and my niece back. They cannot die in the river," said a desperate Moni Begum, one of the relatives of the many victims of the ferry that sank yesterday in the Padma River, in central Bangladesh.

The boat with 150 people on board collided, for reasons still unknown, with a cargo ship about 40 km north-west of the capital Dhaka. At least 69 people died in the incident, including several children. There is no official passenger list.

The ferry, the ML Mostafa, was travelling the route that connects Paturia to Daulatdia, in Manikganj District. It sank after colliding with the Nargis-1 cargo ship, at 11:45 am local time. Police arrested the latter's captain and first officer.

Quick action by rescue teams saved at least 50 passengers. The search for survivors continues but with each passing hour, there is little hope of finding people alive. Experts expect the death toll to rise in the coming days.

The authorities in Rajbari and Manikganj are now organising the recovery operation for the bodies and their return to the families.

Shipping Minister Shajahan Khan visited the area of ​​the incident and announced compensation for the relatives of the victims. Manikganj District authorities also plan to provide financial aid.

Accidents involving vessels are a common in Bangladesh, a country with more than 300 rivers crisscrossed by often dilapidated and overcrowded boats, often without proper safety equipment. For the poor, boats are often the cheapest way to travel.

Earlier this month, a similar event occurred in southern Bangladesh in which at least seven people died.

In August of 2014, more than 100 people died when a boat with a maximum capacity of 85 capsized. At the time of the accident, it carried more than 200 passengers.

According to government figures, at least 11,000 people have died in the last 40 years in accidents involving ferries in the country's rivers and waterways.

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