Death toll reaches 114 in Bangladesh ferry sinking

Recovery workers on Wednesday raised the wreckage of a ferry that capsized on a river in Bangladesh while carrying about 200 people, hoping this would reveal the fate of dozens of passengers still missing. The death toll rose to 114 and rescuers continued to search for more bodies.

The ferry collided with a cargo boat and capsized in the darkness of Tuesday morning, sending hundreds of people into the Meghna River, just south of the capital, Dhaka. Local police chief Mohammad Shahabuddin Khan said about 35 survivors were plucked from the water, while local media reported that another 40 managed to swim to shore.

The death toll climbed to 114 by late Wednesday afternoon after villagers and rescuers found more bodies inside the ferry and floating in nearby waters, said rescue official Mahfuzul Haque. Divers had recovered 31 bodies inside the sunken vessel the day before, and efforts to move the ferry had shaken more loose.

"We are looking for bodies inside the salvaged ferry, we are searching every corner," police chief Khan told The Associated Press.

Villagers scoured the river and joined rescuers to help find more bodies.

The dead included a young woman found cradling her baby's lifeless body, Khan said.

Ferry accidents are common in Bangladesh, a low-lying delta nation of 160 million people. They are often blamed on overcrowding, faulty vessels and lax rules. In 2009, about 150 people died in three separate ferry accidents in the country, which is crisscrossed by more than 230 rivers.

Hundreds of anxious people, many of them weeping, gathered near the scene of the accident to look for their loved ones. Some of them were angry, saying they blamed local authorities for the slow pace of the rescue operation.

Parul, who goes by one name, said she had been waiting at the shore since Tuesday night for news of her newly married brother, who was returning on the ferry with 16 others from his wedding party.

She said only four of the 17 had apparently survived. Two bodies had been recovered, but the bridegroom and others were still missing.

"Bring my brother back, give them all back," Parul wailed as she beat her chest. "I want to see their faces, please take me to them."

Khan could not specify how many people were missing, but said many were feared dead. It is difficult to get a reliable estimate for the number of passengers as ferry operators rarely keep a list and most passengers buy tickets once on board.

Some of the bodies inside the sunken ferry were buried under cargo, said Mohammad Alauddin, a diver who was among the searchers.

The recovered bodies have been kept in rows on the sandy bank, where volunteers and officials were trying to identify them.

The MV Shariatpur-1 was traveling to Dhaka from neighboring Shariatpur district to the southwest. The accident site is in Munshiganj district, about 20 miles south of Dhaka.