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Disasters

Dozens missing as ferry sinks in Bangladesh

A ferry carrying around 100 people has sunk on Bangladesh's Meghna River after colliding with a sand barge. Dozens are believed to be missing.

The wooden vessel was ferrying passengers close to the town of Gazaria in the central Munshiganj district Friday when it collided at around 8:00 a.m. (0200 GMT) with a barge carrying sand to be used for construction.

Some passengers swam to safety but many others remain unaccounted for, said officials involved in the rescue effort, with between 40 and 50 people believed to be missing. Around 25 people reportedly swam to shore.
 

Local police chief Jahangir Hossain said a rescue boat was sent to the area of the accident, around 32 kilometers (20 miles) south of Dhaka.

The exact number of passengers was unknown as passenger lists are not properly maintained in Bangladesh, and many people purchase their tickets on board.

The Meghna River is one of three rivers that form the Ganges Delta. Unregulated ferries often run into trouble on low-lying Bangladesh's extensive river network. Hundreds of people are killed in accidents every year despite the government's vow to crack down on unlicensed operators.

Last March, 147 people were killed when a passenger boat sank in the Meghna River after colliding with a cargo ship. In February 2005, at least 149 people were killed when a ferry sank in the Buriganga River near Dhaka.

Naval officials have said more than 95 percent of Bangladesh's hundreds of small and medium-sized vessels, many of which predate the country's 1971 independence, do not meet minimum safety regulations.

dr/kms (AFP, Reuters, dpa, AP)