DHAKA, Bangladesh – A ferry capsized and sank during a tropical storm in Bangladesh (search) overnight, leaving at least 59 people dead and dozens missing, rescue officials said Sunday.
The double-decker ferry MV Maharaj (search) was carrying about 200 people when it capsized Saturday night on the Buriganga River just outside the capital, Dhaka.
Rescuers had found 59 bodies and said dozens of people were still missing, said Mahbubur Rahman, a government official.
"The accident happened in darkness and it's still unclear how many people died or survived," Rahman said.
He said 37 bodies were found in the river; 22 others were inside the sunken ferry. Some passengers were rescued by villagers and fishing boats.
"We fear many of the missing people are trapped inside the ferry and presumed dead," said Syed Monwar Hossain, an official at state-run Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Authority (search) that oversees the operation of river ferries.
A salvage ship was trying to recover the ferry with cranes and ropes from about 20 feet of water, Hossain said. Another rescue vessel was en route to the site of accident.
The vessel was about 30 minutes into its journey from Dhaka to the eastern town of Chandpur when gusty winds struck just before midnight Saturday. It capsized and sank near the town of Pagla.
Jasim Uddin, an auto-rickshaw driver, was rescued by a fishing boat, but his daughter and a nephew died. His wife, a son and four other relatives traveling with him were missing.
"I've lost every one in my family. What sin have I committed? Oh Allah, tell me how shall I live without them," sobbed Uddin, 35, sitting in front of the bodies of his daughter and nephew.
"It was dark and high winds came from the south. The ferry careened to one side and I jumped into the waters," said Kohinoor Begum, a garment worker who was picked up by a trawler.
She said her brother and a nephew traveling with her died.
Thousands of people gathered on the river's banks to look for their loved ones.
"I'm looking for my brother, his wife and their 1-year-old son," said Dhaka businessman Mujibur Rahman.
Authorities ordered an investigation into the accident.
Ferry accidents are common in this South Asian nation that's crisscrossed by rivers. A ferry capsized in eastern Chandpur during a storm in July 2003, killing more than 500 people.