By Hannah Schultz, News Editor
An overcrowded ferry sank on the Padma River in Bangladesh on Feb. 22. The ferry overturned after it was hit by a cargo vessel, killing 70 people. This is not the first ferry crash in Bangladesh involving heavy fatalities in recent past, pointing to a deeper problem with this form of transportation in the country.
Most of those rescued from the crash Sunday, about 40 or 50 people, were those on the upper floor of the double-decker ferry. These passengers were able to jump into the river and swim to shore or await rescue. However, with the panic and overcrowding of the lower decks, it is suspected that those passengers were trapped below when the ferry sank.
“The passengers who were on the deck survived, but many who were inside were trapped,” survivor Hafizur Rahman Sheikh said to the Prothom Alo newspaper.
After pulling more bodies from the sunken ferry Feb. 23, the death toll is at 70, including 24 women and 19 children. However, the death toll will continue to rise as more bodies are suspected to be missing. Angry relatives line the shore waiting for their loved ones to be found, but rescuers fear that the currents of the large river have caused some bodies to drift.
“As some people claimed that their relatives are still missing, we’ll continue our search in the river,” Rashida Ferdhouse, deputy commissioner of the Manikganj district, said to CNN on Monday.
Police have arrested three people in connection with the crash, including at least one person responsible for steering the cargo vessel that hit the ferry.
The crash is the second this month, the earlier accident killing at least seven people. Bangladeshi ferries are often overcrowded and have poor monitoring systems, making casualties from ferries common in the country. Most ferries do not have a formal passenger list so that people may be accounted for in the event of an emergency. Along with poor boat quality, these problems cause scores of ferry-related accidents in Bangladesh every year.
In August of 2014, more than 100 people died on the same river when a ferry with a capacity of 85 capsized with more than 200 people on board. The ferry’s owner was arrested on charges of culpable homicide, unauthorized operation and overloading.