Bangladesh boat tragedy death toll hits 32

Rescue workers recovered seven more bodies on Monday after a boat carrying religious pilgrims capsized in Bangladesh, taking the death toll to 32 with scores still missing, police said.

The small boat packed with mostly women and children on their way to a popular temple flipped over on Sunday in a river as onlookers screamed in horror from the shore.

The incident in a remote northern area was the latest in a string of similar tragedies blamed on poor maintenance and overcrowding in the low-lying delta country.

District police chief Sirajul Huda said the seven bodies were found in the Karotoa river downstream from where the boat capsized near the town of Boda. It carried around 90 people — more than the up to 50 pilgrims which police on Sunday said were aboard.

“Sixty people are still missing,” Huda told AFP.

“It was carrying three times its capacity. There were heavy rains in the morning and that is why when the ferrying began, pilgrims packed the boat to make it quickly to the temple,” Huda said.

“The boatman asked some people to disembark in an effort to ease the weight-load. But no one listened,” he said.

Local media said at least 10 people had been rescued and sent to hospital.

Mobile phone footage aired by TV station Channel 24 showed the overcrowded boat suddenly flip over, spilling the passengers into the muddy brown river.

Dozens of people watching from the shore started shouting and screaming. The weather was calm at the time.

Thousands of Hindus in Muslim-majority Bangladesh visit the centuries-old Bodeshwari Temple every year.

Sunday marked the start of Durga Puja, the biggest Hindu festival in Bangladesh — and also eastern India — drawing large crowds at the temple.

Last December around 40 people perished when a packed three-storey ferry caught fire in southern Bangladesh.

A ferry sank in Dhaka in June 2020 after a collision with another vessel, killing at least 32 people.

And at least 78 people perished in 2015 when an overcrowded ship collided with a cargo vessel in a river west of the capital.

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