Dhaka, May 17 IANS | 7 months ago

The death toll in Thursday's ferry disaster in Bangladesh's central Munshiganj district has risen to 54, even as the authorities called off the rescue operation Saturday evening although nearly a dozen people still remained missing, Xinhua reported.

The authorities made the announcement at about 3 p.m. after the sunken ferry was salvaged.

"We'll continue to search for bodies in the waters though rescue operation has formally ended," Xinhua cited Saiful Hasan Badal, chief administrator of the district, as saying Saturday.

He said around a dozen of people were still missing.

"Divers and villagers have retrieved 54 bodies from inside the sunken ferry and nearby areas where it capsized in a storm," Badal said.

Police and rescue officials said about 40 people swam to shore and 35 others were rescued.

Bangladesh's ministry of shipping has announced a grant of 20,000 taka (about USD 256) for the burial of each identified and unidentified body.

The 32-meter double-decker ferry, MV Miraj-4, capsized in Meghna, one of the three rivers that form the Ganges Delta after it was hit by a nor'wester (known as a type of storm in Bangladesh) .

After nearly two days of relentless efforts, rescue divers managed to salvage the sunken ferry Saturday afternoon.

The ferry was travelling to central Shariatpur district, some 101 km south of Dhaka, from the capital city.

Officials could not tell the exact number of the missing passengers.

They said some 12 ill-fated passengers' relatives have so far lodged complaints to authorities, urging recovery of bodies which remained missing although the sunken ferry was dragged upon the river bank.

Munshiganj Police Chief Zakir Hossain Majumder said earlier the ferry was carrying about 200 passengers on the Meghna River in Munshiganj and sank in waters about 90 feet deep.

Hundreds of relatives and friends of the ill-fated passengers Saturday also gathered at the accident site to identify the dead or in the quest for the missing.

Some of the relatives spent the whole night at a temporary shelter centre set up on an island adjacent to the accident scene while many flocked there in the morning.

Ferry services in Bangladesh never maintain list of passengers and none can exactly say how many passengers a ferry carries.

Like many other Dhaka-bound ferries, the ill-fated water taxi was excessively overcrowded Thursday, some survivors alleged.

Boats and ferries are still commonly used as key means of transportation in Bangladesh which is criss-crossed by about 250 rivers.

However, the vessels are often overloaded or badly maintained, and accidents are commonplace.

At least 138 bodies were recovered after an overcrowded ferry capsized in March 2012, also in Munshiganj.

(Posted on 17-05-2014)

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