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Ferry hit by trawler, at least 17 drown

OFFICIALS said they were calling off the search for those still missing after a small ferry carrying about 60 people capsized on a river in southern Bangladesh early yesterday, killing at least 17 people.

The 20-meter ferry - which was rammed by a sand-laden trawler - was towed to shore and searched for bodies, but authorities called off the recovery effort late last night, said local river port official Rafiqul Islam. Rescuers recovered 17 bodies, he said.

"I think there are no more bodies," he said.

Witnesses saw more than 30 people swim 200 meters to shore while onlookers using floats made of banana-tree logs rescued survivors from the ferry, the ML Happy.

Hundreds of onlookers and anxious relatives waited on the riverbank near Barisal, 120 kilometers south of the capital, Dhaka.

Hours after the ferry capsized, police said it was still unclear how many were missing, and local media reported conflicting accounts.

Islam said he could not give an exact figure of how many were aboard. He said the ferry could hold up to 95.

"I survived by swimming to the shore, but I have three young children missing," said 30-year-old Jasmine Aktar.

Ferry accidents are common in Bangladesh, a delta nation of 150 million people.

The accidents are often caused by overcrowding, poor boat maintenance, faulty navigation and safety rules that are not enforced.

In July 2003, at least 500 people were killed when a triple-decker ferry sank in the Meghna River in southern Bangladesh. Nearly a year later, an accident on the same river killed as many as 200.


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