DHAKA: At least 25 people were killed and dozens were missing after a boat packed with Hindu devotees sank on Sunday in Bangladesh, a local official said, in the worst waterways disaster to hit the country in more than a year.

The bodies recovered so far included 12 women and eight children, said Jahurul Islam, district administrator of northern Panchagarh, where the accident occurred.

“The rescue operation for those missing is ongoing,” he said, adding the ferry was taking mostly devotees to a Hindu temple on the occasion of Mahalaya.

Islam said he did not know the exact number of people missing, but passengers said more than 70 people had been on the boat, which sank in the Karatoya River.

A committee has been formed to investigate the incident, he said.

Police said nearly 20 people were still missing while some of the passengers managed to swim ashore or were rescued.

Thousands of Hindus in Muslim-majority Bangladesh visit the Bodeshwari Temple every year.

The incident was the latest in a string of similar tragedies in Bangladesh.

Experts in the South Asian nation of 170 million people blame poor maintenance, lax safety standards at shipyards and overcrowding.

Last December more than 40 people perished when a packed three-storey ferry caught fire in the south of the country. The blaze broke out early in the morning when most of the passengers were sleeping near the rural town of Jhakakathi, 250km south of capital Dhaka.

A ferry sank in Dhaka in June last year after a collision with another vessel, killing at least 32 people.

And at least 78 people died in February 2015 when an overcrowded ship collided with a cargo vessel in a river west of the capital.

Published in Dawn, September 26th, 2022

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