Passenger boat in Bangladesh sinks, 21 dead, others missing

DHAKA,Bangladesh (AP) — At least 21 people died when a Bangladeshi passenger boat sank with more than 100 aboard, and the driver of a cargo vessel suspected of colliding with the boat has been arrested, officials said Saturday.

Around 50 passengers were missing after the sinking Friday evening in a large open body of water the eastern district of Brahmanbaria, according to initial reports from officials and Bangladeshi media.

Bangladesh is a delta nation where water transport is heavily used to move people and goods. But deadly accidents are common because of unskilled operation and poor enforcement of safety rules. The country is crisscrossed by 230 rivers, and during the monsoon season some low-lying areas fill with water and are also used by boats.

The cargo boat’s driver and two assistants were caught by locals in the Bijoynagar area and turned over to the authorities, said Anisur Rahman, district police superintendent. He said efforts to recover more bodies were ongoing.

Local police official Imranul Islam provided the figure of 21 dead, speaking by phone late Friday. Survivors said about 100 people were aboard. Local news reports, quoting the area’s top government administrator, Hayat-Ud-Dola, said about 50 people were missing.

A witness said two cargo vessels hit the boat, which sank quickly, Dhaka-based The Daily Star newspaper reported.

“I was grazing cattle on the bank. I heard a loud noise and saw the cargo vessels hitting the passenger trawler. I saw the trawler sinking quickly,” witness Nurul Amin told the paper.

The Bijoynagar area is 82 kilometers (51 miles) east of the capital, Dhaka.