A storm in central Bangladesh caused a loaded ferry to sink in the River Meghna near Munshiganj on Thursday after the ferry's captain reportedly didn't heed passengers' warnings to steer closer to shore. The bodies of 54 passengers have been found, while police fear over 100 bodies are still unaccounted for.
Authorities had initially called off the search for missing passengers on early Saturday after retrieving 40 bodies and towing the ferry to shore, but family members had protested. The recovery efforts are now back on, and while some authorities are claiming only 12 bodies are left to be recovered, the estimate continues to change. Ferry operators in Bangladesh do not usually keep passenger lists.
The ferry sank on Thursday after a storm hit. Sabuj, a passenger who had jumped overboard and swam to shore, claims that the captain had ignored passengers' pleas to stay close to shore as the storm began.
According to the AP, officials are looking into "whether the vessel was overcrowded or had design faults."
Masudul Haque, a rescue diver looking for missing passengers, told the Associated Press:
"We have recovered the bodies mainly from the lower deck and other open spaces, but could not open the doors of the cabin rooms where many passengers took shelter after the storm had hit," Haque said. "I tried to open those doors but could not as huge volumes of sand have buried many of the doors."
According to Mohammad Ali, a director of the Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Authority, the ferry was overcrowded with passengers and its lower deck was loaded with goods.
Shamsuddoha Khandaker, chief of the water transport authority, says they will continue to look for missing passengers.
"We will continue our search," he said. "We have towed the ferry to the shore, but we will continue to search for bodies in the waters."