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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

400 Feared Dead After River Ferry Sinks

DHAKA, Bangladesh -- About 400 people were feared drowned when an overcrowded ferry was sucked into a whirlpool in a rain-swollen Bangladesh river, officials said.

The double-decker Nasreen was on its way from Dhaka to the southern town of Barisal when it nose-dived into the Meghna river late Tuesday night.

There was no official word on how many passengers were on board, but police quoted survivors as saying the ferry was carrying at least 600 people, double the licensed capacity, plus cargo it was not permitted to carry.

One survivor said he was riding on the roof of the vessel and dived off when it began to sink.

"The ferry turned aside suddenly. Within moments it started nose-diving and I jumped into the river," Samir Chandra Adhikari said. He said he had to swim more than 100 meters to the river bank.

Baktiar Alam, police superintendent of Chandpur district said the ferry sank at 11 p.m. Tuesday with more than 600 people on board and that, according to survivors, only 200 swam to safety or were rescued.

Among the survivors was 18-month-old Tania. Her parents were missing, feared drowned, and about 90 students of an Islamic religious school were also among those feared drowned, a surviving fellow student said.

Tuesday's disaster was the latest in a series of ferry accidents that plague the impoverished nation with tragic frequency.

Officials said the spot where the ferry sank was notorious for accidents. It marks the confluence of three rivers and the converging currents create a whirlpool effect, especially when the waters are high.

"Passengers swarmed the ferry as another scheduled on the route canceled its itinerary without issuing prior notice," a Shipping Ministry official said. "In this case also, rules were grossly violated," he added, requesting not to be identified.

A rescue ship was at the site and hundreds of people were crowding river banks for news of loved ones, witnesses said. By midday Wednesday, three bodies had been recovered from the river and one of the survivors had died in a hospital, police said. At least 19 people were being treated for injuries.

At least 450 people were killed in a similar ferry accident in May last year at almost the same spot, officials said.

Officials blame the disasters on neglect of safety regulations, structural faults, lax law enforcement and poor weather monitoring.