Bangladesh calls off search in deadly boat sinking

Dhaka - Bangladeshi rescuers on Monday called off their search for a heavily overloaded river boat that sank a week ago drowning scores of passengers, an official said.

Rescuers have recovered 46 bodies from the river in Munshiganj district where the ferry, carrying more than 200 passengers, sank in rough conditions last Monday.

The search for the remaining victims would continue in the river, an official said, although the number of missing has been revised down from 130 to 61.

Chief rescue official Saiful Hasan said the search for the boat itself, which was licensed to carry just 85 passengers, was being abandoned after fruitless efforts and ongoing bad weather.

61 missing

"We've called off the search as we've failed to locate it despite using latest technology," Hasan, the district's chief administrator, told AFP.

"The river's behaviour is also very erratic due to inclement weather," he said.

"We have verified the list of the missing people and 61 people are now confirmed missing," he added.

Hasan said desperate relatives were trying to locate the sunken ferry themselves by hiring fishing trawlers, fearing that their loved ones might still be trapped inside.

The ferry was packed with people returning from their villages following the Muslim Eid holiday when it sank in the Padma, the main distributary of the Ganges River, about 30 km south of Dhaka.

Ferry accidents are common in Bangladesh, with overcrowding and poor ship design and maintenance often to blame.

One of Asia's poorest nations, Bangladesh is criss-crossed by more than 230 rivers. Boats are the main form of travel, especially in the southern and northeastern regions.

Officials have said more than 95% of Bangladesh's hundreds of thousands of small and medium-sized boats do not meet minimum safety regulations.