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Sunday, 23 May, 2004, 10:04 GMT 11:04 UK
Ferry sinks in Bangladesh storm


A ferry carrying more than 200 passengers has sunk in southern Bangladesh.

The double-decker vessel sank during a heavy storm in the Meghna river near Chandpur, 170km (105 miles) south of the capital Dhaka.

Police say 57 survivors have been found - leaving many others feared dead. Eight bodies have been found so far.

Ferry accidents are all too common in Bangladesh, which has a large network of rivers and poor safety standards.

'Turbulent'

The MV Lighting Sun was en route to Dhaka from the southern Madaripur area when it capsized during a tropical storm at about 0330 Sunday (2130 GMT Saturday).

The head of police said 50 people had managed to swim ashore and a further seven had been rescued.

Women and children were reported to be among the eight dead found so far.

Many of the passengers were asleep when the accident happened and were feared to be trapped inside the vessel, Mohammad Dulal Miah, a police officer at the scene, told AP news agency.

"Even though the ferry sank close to shore, the river is turbulent here and it is hampering the rescue work," Mr Miah said.

Villagers and fishermen using motor boats are trying to rescue survivors, according to local reports.

Bad record

Ferry accidents are common in Bangladesh, which is crisscrossed by rivers and has few roads.

It is also the pre-monsoon season, when fierce storms can blow up quickly.

The stretch of the Meghna river where this latest accident occurred is notorious, says the BBC's Roland Buerk in Dhaka.

It is close to the point where it meets another great river, the Padma, causing strong currents, he says.

More than 700 people died last year when a ferry capsized on the same river.