PAGLA, Bangladesh – The death toll from a ferry sinking outside the Bangladeshi capital rose to 39 when police found nine more bodies inside the boat's hull Friday while rescuers searched for about 20 people still missing, authorities said.
The ferry, carrying more than 100 passengers, capsized Thursday after hitting a cargo vessel on the Buriganga River.
The new bodies were found inside the hull of the wooden ferry MV Saurav after it was pulled out of 45 feet of water early Friday, said A.S.M. Maniruzzaman, a police officer at the scene of the accident.
Most of the 39 dead were women and children who were traveling on the lower deck of the boat, Maniruzzaman said. About 20 people were still missing, officials said.
The ferry had been traveling from Dhaka to the nearby town of Taltala, Fire Brigade official Sufia Begum said.
It sank near shore in the calm river after colliding with a small cargo vessel and many people were able to swim to safety, Maniruzzaman said.
He said the cargo vessel was slightly damaged and it was not known if anyone aboard it was hurt.
Rina Aktar and her 10-month-old son survived, but she said her 50-year-old mother-in-law died.
"I huddled my baby and ran to the upper deck when the boat wobbled and started going down," Aktar, 25, said while nursing her baby at a nearby medical center. "The boy took in lot of water, but I'm glad he is still alive."
A teenage survivor said a fishing boat rescued her as she swam toward shore.
"I was climbing to the upper deck when something jolted the boat hard. I jumped in the river as the boat started going down," said the survivor, who gave only the name Farhana.
Area residents joined police and fire department divers in searching for those missing.
Such accidents are common in Bangladesh, which has more than 250 rivers, and are often blamed on lax rules and unsafe practices.