At least 26 die as speed boat overturns in Bangladesh river

Dhaka: An overcrowded speedboat ferrying over 30 passengers and defying the COVID-19 restrictions capsized after hitting a stationary sand-laden cargo vessel in the Padma River on Monday, leaving at least 26 people dead, a senior Bangladesh police officer said.

The accident occurred at the old Kanthalbari ferry terminal in Shibchar upazila of Madaripur at around 8 am. The boat, driven by an inexperienced driver, overturned in the Padma River in central Bangladesh while heading for Madaripur district from Munshiganj district.

Rescuers have retrieved at least 26 bodies, police said.

"We have retrieved 26 bodies, rescued alive five others . . . but searches are underway for more as several speedboat passengers are feared missing," said Ashiqur Rahman, the police inspector of a nearby ferry terminal. He said that they were informed the driver of the speedboat was an inexperienced underage boy.

Witnesses and survivors said the boat was carrying over 30 passengers and the vessel was transporting sand in the Padma River near the town of Shibchar of Madaripur, he said.

Divers from the local fire service station and river police rushed to the spot and joined the rescue operation, he added.

All the deceased - one female and 25 males - were passengers of the speedboat, the Daily Star newspaper reported.

The speedboat was carrying excess passengers, violating the restriction imposed by the government amid the pandemic situation, the report quoted Madaripur Deputy Commissioner Rahima Khatun as saying. Bangladesh is under lockdown until Wednesday to stem the spread of Coronavirus.

The accident occurred as there was not sufficient light in the morning and also the driver was not skilled enough, Khatun said. A six-member inquiry committee has been formed to investigate the accident. Hundreds of people die each year in maritime accidents in Bangladesh, a low-lying country that has extensive inland waterways and lax safety standards.

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