Rescuers and navy divers recovered 10 bodies on Tuesday after a boat overloaded with religious pilgrims capsized in Bangladesh, police said, bringing the death toll to 61 as anxious relatives awaited news of several others still missing.
Sunday’s incident near the northern city of Boda was the deadliest in years in the South Asian nation, which is criss-crossed by rivers where crowding on older ships is common.
Among the dead were 17 children, authorities said, with video footage showing some as young as four years old.
The small vessel capsized in a river on its way to a popular temple as onlookers screamed from the shore, in terrifying scenes captured on cellphones.
Boda police chief Sujoy Kumar Roy said rescue workers, including firefighters, navy divers and villagers, were searching miles down the banks of the Karatoa river, where the tragic incident took place.
The boat was carrying about 90 people, about 50 of whom were pilgrims on their way to a centuries-old Hindu temple for a major festival.
“We resumed the search this morning and rescuers found several more bodies in the stream and under the water… There are still a few more missing,” Roy told AFP.
Police inspector Abdur Razzak said that at least 30 women were killed.
He said that a committee has been formed to investigate the incident.
Dozens of relatives of the missing were still crowding the riverbank on Tuesday, though most had left after authorities handed over the bodies of their family members.
“Three women in my family were missing since the boat sank,” said a distraught relative, Vikas Chandra, late on Monday night.
“We found one around 10am, who was rescued earlier. But the other two are yet to be found.”
District Police Chief Sirajul Huda said on Monday that the boat was carrying three times more passengers than its authorized capacity.
“The boatman told some people to get off to lose weight. But nobody listened,” he told AFP.
Mobile phone footage broadcast by TV station Channel 24 showed the overcrowded boat suddenly overturning and throwing passengers into the muddy brown river.
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Dozens of people yelled and screamed from the shore. The weather was calm then.
Thousands of Hindus in Muslim-majority Bangladesh visit the famous Bodeshwari temple every year.
Sunday marks the beginning of Durga Puja, a major Hindu festival with huge crowds at temples. Last December, around 40 people were killed when a packed three-story ferry caught fire in southern Bangladesh.
In June 2020, a ferry sank in Dhaka after colliding with another vessel, killing at least 32 people. And in 2015 at least 78 people were killed when an overcrowded vessel collided with a cargo ship in a river west of the capital.