At least 26 people were killed when a motorboat full of passengers collided with a vessel carrying sand in the latest maritime disaster that struck Bangladesh.
Police say a motorboat carrying about three dozen passengers from the town of Mava crashed into another ship in the Padma River as it approached the main river station in the central rural town of Shibchar.
“So far, we have recovered 26 bodies, including a woman. We also rescued five wounded, including three children, “said police officer Amir Hossein.
“Police, fire and army rescue teams are on the scene, conducting search and rescue operations,” he said.
Abdur Rahman, who witnessed the crash, said there was a loud noise when the boats collided and the vessels then capsized.
“When we rushed to the scene, we found that the motorboat was torn in two. Hundreds of villagers immediately began rescue operations before being joined by police and firefighters, “he said.
Bangladesh is building the country’s largest road-rail bridge near the crash site, and police said officers were immediately on the scene.
Construction work has slowed ferry transport along the river, prompting many to travel with less safe motor boats, which take only about 15 minutes to cross, as opposed to up to two hours on safer ferries.
The government administrator of Shibchar district said up to five people are believed to be missing.
He said the driver of the motorboat would be investigated as he appeared to have hit a transport ship that was moored at the time.
“A probe has been ordered for the accident,” he said.
Maritime disasters are common in Bangladesh, a delta nation crossed by hundreds of rivers. Experts blame poor maintenance, unstable safety standards at shipyards and overcrowding for many of the incidents.
Sand vessels sit low in the water and are difficult to see in unstable conditions, especially when the light is low.
In February 2015, at least 78 people died when an overcrowded ship collided with a cargo boat.