Bangladesh

Death toll above 300 in Bangladesh ferry disaster

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Dhaka (dpa) - The worst ferry disaster in decades caused at least 300 deaths, with rescuers late Monday saying they have pulled more than 280 bodies from the submerged ship since it sank Friday.

Decomposing bodies were stacked on the river bank as navy and police divers hauled the wreck from the water near the river-port town of Chandpur, where the Meghna River flows into the Bay of Bengal.

Amir Hussain, chief of the salvage team, said more bodies were floating in the water. He said rescuers also expect to recover many bodies from cabins. The MV Salaudin had two decks.

A senior police officer said many bodies were disfigured beyond recognition and had been buried in mass graves on the river bank.

The ferry ran into a tropical storm while en route to the coastal town of Patuakhali 280 kilometres south of the capital city of Dhaka on Friday.

Prime Minister Khaleda Zia said the sinking was a national tragedy and ordered an official probe.

Thousands of grieving relatives have kept a vigil near the site, putting out into the rain-swept Meghna in hopes of spotting bodies of their kin.

District police superintendent Ruhul Amin said the search-and-rescue operation twice had been suspended since late Sunday because of gales and driving rain.

About one hundred people survived the mishap by jumping from the sinking ship, where they were rescued by other ferries and fishing boats.

In the absence of passenger lists, officials said it would be difficult to obtain an accurate count of how many passengers were on board when the gales struck. Survivors said the ferry was overloaded.

Rescue workers said many of the missing may have been dragged into the Bay of Bengal by the receding tide.

dpa af jm wo

AP-NY-05-06-02 1222EDT

Copyright (c) 2002 dpa Deutsche Presse-Agentur GmbH
Received by NewsEdge Insight: 05/06/2002 12:22:25

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