DHAKA, Bangladesh – An overcrowded river ferry capsized in turbulent waters in southern Bangladesh (search), and about 600 people were missing, rescue officials said Wednesday.
The triple-deck ferry carrying 750 people sank late Tuesday at the meeting point of the Padma (search), Meghna and Dakatia rivers as it approached a ferry terminal about 40 miles south of the capital, Dhaka (search).
Many of the passengers were sleeping when it went down and about 150 people either swam to shore or were rescued by fishermen, said Manzoor-e-Elahi, the area's government administrator.
Two bodies have so far been found from Meghna River, police official Abu Rahat said. Searchers have been unable to locate the sunken ferry believed to be under 200 feet of water.
The ferry, the MV Nasrin-2, was traveling from Dhaka to the southern Bhola district when it sank near Chandpur town, said Manzoor-e-Elahi.
Some Dhaka newspapers said the ferry may have been carrying more than 1,000 passengers, nearly three times its capacity.
The ferry was "extremely overcrowded" as about 400 passengers boarded it at the last moment after another ferry canceled its voyage, Dhaka's Ittefaq newspaper reported.
Among the survivors was Sujan, a seven-year-old boy.
"I held on a small piece of wood," said the boy, whose father is missing. "Please find my father."
Rina Begum, 25, was another survivor.
"I was sitting on the upper deck with my three-year-old daughter," said Begum, who was rescued by fishermen. "There was a big jolt and the ferry started going down."
Heavy monsoon rains have swollen many rivers in Bangladesh.
Elahi said police and local people were using boats to search for survivors.
A salvage ship equipped with cranes for pulling out sunken ships arrived at the accident site Wednesday.
Frequent boating accidents, often blamed on overloading, faulty construction and disregard for safety measures, claim hundreds of lives every year in the nation of 130 million people.
In April, following protests by boat operators, Bangladesh officials withdrew a ban on night travel by ferries that was instituted after a series of accidents.
In return for the lifting of the ban, ferry owners promised not to operate their vessels in inclement weather and to follow safety regulations.
Two river ferries went down on April 21 in separate accidents near Dhaka, killing more than 135 people.