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Tuesday, 7 May, 2002, 11:24 GMT 12:24 UK
Bangladesh mourns ferry dead

Relatives wait for news on river bank
Relatives have been waiting anxiously for news

Bangladesh rescue workers have now recovered nearly 300 bodies from a ferry which sank last Friday, officials and press reports say.

Bangladesh ferries' poor record
May 2000: 127 die in Brahmanbaria
March 1993: 175 die in Barisal
May 1989: 95 die in Meghna river
April 1987: 90 die in Meghna
March 1986: up to 600 die in Meghna
May 1983: 170 die in Kalabadar river
More than 120 of those killed have already been buried near the south-eastern port of Chandpur where the disaster happened - most of them bloated and decayed beyond recognition.

Divers found another 20 corpses on Tuesday morning amid the twisted metal of the ferry, which was salvaged from the bottom of the Meghna River on Monday.

Those bodies not already claimed are being taken to ports along the Meghna in the hope they will be identified by relatives and friends.

"Someone please take me to my son," said one tearful woman, Saleha Begum. "I can't bear it any more."


Most of the dead are thought to have come from the coastal district of Patuakhali, about 100 kilometres (62 miles) downstream from Chandpur.

A BBC correspondent in Dhaka says people in Bangladesh, where such disasters are commonplace, are shocked by the sheer scale of the tragedy.

He says the accident may galvanise the government, which has called an inquiry, into taking drastic steps to improve ferry safety.

Previous attempts to regulate ferries and introduce stricter safety procedures have not been successful.

Ferries in Bangladesh rarely carry complete passenger lists or even issue tickets, explaining the confusion over exact passenger numbers.


On Monday, Shipping Minister Akbar Hossain said it appeared nearly 400 people had been on board the Salahuddin-2 when it went down late at night in bad weather.

Bangladesh ferry
Bad weather has been hampering rescue efforts

Officials say about 100 of them were rescued or swam to safety.

But some survivor accounts speak of as many as 600 people being on the boat, twice the number it was authorised to carry.

Rescuers say the exact number of dead will never be known as many corpses were carried away by strong currents.

But our correspondent says claims the doomed vessel was hopelessly overcrowded, at first denied by the authorities, now seem correct.