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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

170 Missing in Ferry Capsize in Bangladesh

MANIKGANJ, Bangladesh -- Anxious relatives lined a riverbank as rescuers searched the waters Thursday for up to 170 people missing from a ferry that capsized during a storm in central Bangladesh, killing at least 31 people, police and officials said.

Strong currents and winds hit the overcrowded double-deck ferry M.L. Raipura on Tuesday as it carried about 250 passengers toward a terminal on the Padma River in central Manikganj district, 40 kilometers northwest of the capital, Dhaka.

Rescuers plucked 29 bodies from the choppy river Thursday, raising the confirmed death toll to 31, said local police officer Abu Bakr Siddiqui. The bodies of a man and a child were found Tuesday and Wednesday, respectively. At least 50 people swam to shore.

On Thursday, most of the bodies were found floating or washed up on the river bank nearly eight kilometers downstream from the wreckage, said boatman Mominul Haq.

Many of about 170 people missing were feared trapped inside the sunken ferry.

A salvage ship reached the scene early Thursday and rescuers used iron chains to try to pull the vessel from the water.

"A strong current is hampering our work. We don't know how soon we will be able to salvage the ferry," said rescue worker Nurul Huq.

The 29 bodies were kept at a makeshift morgue on the river bank, but only 15 were identified and taken away by relatives, Siddiqui said.

Hundreds of anxious people camped near the site of the accident waiting for their missing loved ones.

Sona Banu, 50, was looking for her 20-year-old daughter.

"My daughter was traveling by the ferry to her husband's home after visiting me. She told me she would see me again. I hope she comes back alive and keeps her promise," said Banu, tears rolling down her eyes. Banu's son-in-law survived.

Several survivors said the crew ignored calls to steer the boat to the nearest shore and tried speeding to a nearby terminal when the storm started brewing.

"When it suddenly became dark, we begged the crew to anchor at the nearest bank, but they asked us to go inside the cabins and shut the windows," survivor Abdus Sattar said. "Then, a gust of wind suddenly tilted the boat and it started sinking. Many didn't have time to jump."

The ferry, packed mostly with farm workers, was on its way to the Aricha terminal from neighboring Pabna district when it capsized.

It was not clear if the crew members were among the missing.

The ferry was certified to carry 135 passengers, but more than 200 tickets were sold, said Abdur Rahim, secretary of a ferry owners' association.

The accident came after another ferry hosting a wedding party sank on Sunday amid strong winds and high waves at the mouth of the Bura Gauranga River in southern Bangladesh, killing at least 88 people. The bride and groom are among the missing.