Prince of Patuakhai Capsizes in Bangladesh

May 15, 2005

PATUAKHALI, Bangladesh (AP) - An overloaded passenger ferry capsized in strong winds and high waves in southern Bangladesh on Sunday, killing at least 22 people and leaving about 80 others missing, an official and a witness said.

The double-decker ferry capsized and sank in the mouth of the Bura Gauranga River after a strong wind struck it in Patuakhali district, 95 miles south of the capital, Dhaka, the area's chief administrator, Mejbah Uddin, told The Associated Press.

``The boat just turned on its side and sank after it was hit by a gust of wind and high waves,'' Shankar Lal Das, a survivor, told The Associated Press.

Das was among nearly 50 passengers who either swam ashore or were rescued by fishing boats.

Rescuers recovered the bodies of 22 people, including four children, Uddin said.

Hundreds of relatives of the dead or missing thronged to the riverbank to identify the displayed bodies, he said.

The death toll could be higher because several bodies were taken away by relatives who searched the vast river in wooden fishing boats. More bodies also were feared trapped inside the sunken ferry, which had not been found, Uddin said.

A salvage ship was on its way to the find the boat, but strong currents were interfering with the rescue operation, he said.

The ferry, the MV Prince of Patuakhali, was carrying more than 150 passengers - twice its capacity - toward Char Montaj from the coastal town of Patuakhali, he said. The accident occurred close to the sea in Golapchipa, about 25 miles east of Patuakhali.