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Bangladesh Ferry Overturns; 175 Bodies Found, Hundreds Missing

Associated Press

A sudden storm whipped up waves that capsized a river ferry carrying at least 1,200 people, survivors reported Monday. Rescuers found 175 bodies and were searching for hundreds more.

“Hundreds of passengers screamed in panic as the first gust of the northwester sent huge waves rolling over the deck, and minutes later (the ferry) started going down,” said Mohammed Jasimuddin, 35, a Bangladesh air force corporal who was on a holiday trip.

The Atlas Star sank Sunday night near this small Dhaleswari River port, which is 10 miles south of Dhaka, capital of Bangladesh.

A.R. Khan, the Munshiganj district administrator, said police and residents rescued about 100 passengers, of whom about 20 were hospitalized.

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Authorities said about 80 other passengers swam to safety through heavy rain and hail after the ferry capsized 100 yards from the Munshiganj terminal. It was bound from Dhaka to Barisal, 140 miles south of the capital.

“Five to six people grabbed me as I tried to come out of the upper deck of the vessel,” said Jasimuddin, whose face, shoulders and knees were covered with bruises.

“Hundreds of passengers--men, women and children--were trying to get out of the hull,” he said.

The Atlas Star, a steel-bodied, double-decked motor launch, measured 80 by 30 feet, Khan said. An assistant said its capacity was 1,200 passengers and that it was “not unlikely that the vessel was carrying more.”

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A faculty member of the Munshiganj Teachers’ Training Institute, who was among the first local rescuers to volunteer, predicted that the “number of survivors will not go beyond 300" and the dead “may go beyond 1,000.”

Khan said rescuers were searching for bodies as far as 10 miles down the river.

In March, 1985, a river ferry carrying 400 passengers collided with another vessel near Dhaka and sank, killing 53 people. A collision in April, 1984, also near Dhaka, claimed 150 lives.

Also on Sunday, 32 people were reported killed in a fire that destroyed 200 huts at a refugee camp on the outskirts of Dhaka and left 20,000 Bihari Muslims homeless.

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