Bangladesh ferry toll reaches 71

Agence France-Presse

Posted at Nov 30 2009 09:47 PM | Updated as of Dec 01 2009 05:47 AM

NAZIRPUR, Bangladesh - Rescuers have retrieved 16 more bodies after a ferry capsized in southern Bangladesh, taking the death toll to 71 with several people still missing, police said Monday.

Local police chief Zakir Hossain said more bodies were recovered three days after the MV Coco-4 overturned when packed with passengers heading home to celebrate the Muslim festival of Eid al-Adha.

"The death toll is now 71 including 31 children. Today, most of the bodies were found in very bad shape, floating on the river," he told AFP.

Hossain said that less than a dozen people remained missing, based on reports by relatives.

"Some bodies may have been washed downstream," he said.

The triple-decker ferry had a capacity of 665 but was overloaded with more than 1,000 passengers when it began taking in water as it came into dock late Friday on the river Tentulia.

Hamena Khatun, from the nearby village of Maheshkhali, wept at the riverbank after hearing that his 25-year-old son was feared dead.

"I won't go home without him," he said.

A salvage vessel turned the boat back onto its hull Sunday afternoon, as some locals pelted rocks at rescue workers in protest at the slow pace of recovery operations.

Boat and ferry accidents due to lax safety standards and overloading are common in Bangladesh, which is criss-crossed by 230 rivers.

It is estimated that more than 3,000 people have lost their lives in such accidents since 1977.