Rescuers fear the worst after a ferry capsized late Monday morning in central Bangladesh. The sunken ferry has still not been located, and at least 100 people are still missing.
The winds and current were strong and the waves were high, as people watched the ferry capsize and sink from the shore of the Padma River, horrified. "The ferry went out of control due to wind and current, tilting from one side to the other," survivor Azizul Haque, 30, tells the Daily Mail. The ferry sank very quickly after it capsized about 10 minutes from reaching its destination, taking most of its passengers down with it.
Two women and a child have been confirmed dead. At least 110 people, reports the Daily Times of Pakistan, including Haque, were able to swim to shore or were rescued by boats. Haque said that he jumped overboard when it appeared that the ferry was going to capsize, adding: "Then the captain jumped out because he probably understood it was sinking."
According to The Nation, another survivor said: "Suddenly the ferry was hit by a wave and flooded with water. I got out through a window and the ferry sank quickly. I was rescued by a local motor boat, other people were also rescued by boats."
Though the 64-foot ferry was licensed to carry no more than 85 passengers, local media says that there were likely at least 250 people on board. Some survivors have reported that there were closer to 350 people on the over-crowded ferry. Many of those who escaped were actually riding on the top of the ferry for the two-hour ride across the Padma river, according to Sky News.
The ferries do not keep logbooks, so there is no passenger manifest or definitive number of passengers, only the certainty that the ferry was carrying numbers far in excess of the boat's capacity. There were also no life jackets or life boats on board the ferry, according to Newsmax.
Such conditions are not uncommon in Bangladesh, which remains one of the most densely populated countries on the planet. August is in the middle of the monsoon season for this area that is situated on a delta. The land is crisscrossed with many rivers that are swollen from heavy rains. Boats and ferries remain a primary means of transportation.
It is not unusual for boats to far exceed the maximum numbers of passengers they are licensed to carry in Bangladesh. or for regulations to be ignored. The Nation reports: "Officials have said more than 95 percent of Bangladesh's hundreds of thousands of small and medium-sized boats do not meet minimum safety regulations."
The New York Times reports that, according to Fakhrul Islam of the Bangladesh Department of Shipping, the operating license of the Pinak-6 was expired since April.
Islam also reports that there was a severe warning out that went unheeded by the ferry driver. Though there was no storm reported at the time of the ferry accident, the waters were rough, with waves as high as 10 to 13 feet high. Jasim Uddin, who was on shore, filmed the sinking of the ferry on his phone.
The waves are still choppy and the current strong, greatly hampering rescue efforts as well. Rescuers have arrived on the scene from the police and fire departments, and the military, but the missing ferry has still not been located in the waters which are about 80 feet deep.
Mohammad Suman told Reuters that he was traveling with his family. "We were five altogether and I and another survived by jumping from the ferry." A sister and two of his brothers are still missing.
Hundreds of family members and friends gathered at the shore searching for loved ones, crying and clinging to one another, in a heartbreaking scene.
Bangladesh has a history of ferry accidents which have involved huge losses of life. The Inquisitr reported that a ferry capsized on the Meghna River in May, killing about 50, another ferry capsized in February of 2013 in the same region of Bangladesh, and a collision between a ferry and a boat on the Meghna River in March of 2012, in which 145 lost their lives.
Each time the Bangladeshi government vows to tighten up enforcement of regulations following the ferry accidents, but they have yet to follow through. Bengali people continue to ride over-crowded, poorly-maintained boats and ferries, as drivers and captains ignore safety rules, and accidents like this one, of a ferry boat capsizing, continue to take a staggering toll on lives in Bangladesh.
[image via BBC]