Dhaka, Sep 27 (PTI) The death toll from a major boat accident in northern Bangladesh has climbed to 68, officials said on Tuesday, two days after the overcrowded vessel carrying Hindu devotees to a centuries-old temple capsized.
The devotees, including women and children, were heading towards the Bodeshwari Temple on the occasion of Mahalaya, the auspicious start of the Durga Puja festival, when the boat capsized in the Korotoa River in the northwestern Panchagarh district on Sunday.
At least 20 people are still missing, officials said.
Eighteen bodies were recovered from Debiganj and Boda upazilas in Panchagarh and Atrai river in Dinajpur on Tuesday morning, after local authorities stepped up rescue efforts for the third day, according to the Dhaka Tribune newspaper.
Eyewitnesses claimed that there were more than 150 passengers on the boat, with some managing to swim back to the river bank.
“The preliminary investigation shows that the boat was overcrowded,” Panchagarh’s Additional Deputy Commissioner Dipankar Roy was quoted as saying by the Dhaka Tribune newspaper.
Roy also noted there may be other reasons behind why the boat sank, but that will be revealed after the committee finishes its investigation, it said.
Families are lining the banks of the river in the area, desperately waiting for the bodies of their loved ones to be retrieved from the water.
The Durga Puja is the biggest Hindu festival in Bangladesh and in eastern India. Deltaic Bangladesh is crisscrossed by several hundred rivers while hundreds of people die each year in boat and ferry accidents in Bangladesh, largely due to overcrowding.
In May, 26 people died after an overcrowded speed boat collided with a sand-laden bulk carrier and sank on the Padma River. PTI VM AKJ VM VM
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