Boat packed with passengers capsizes after colliding with cargo ship in Bangladesh; At least 21 dead, dozens missing

At least 21 people have died and dozens remain unaccounted for after a boat packed with passengers and a sand-laden cargo ship collided in a lake in eastern Bangladesh.

The boat was reportedly carrying some 60 passengers when the incident occurred on Friday on a lake in the town of Bijoynagar, local official Hayat-ud-Doula Khan said.

The cargo ship’s steel tip and the boat collided, causing the passenger vessel to capsize, he said.

“We have recovered 21 bodies including nine women and six children so far,” he told AFP, but added that the death toll was likely to further rise.

It is unclear how many people were on board at the time of the collision, and exactly how many remain missing. According to police official Imranul Islam, survivors said about 100 people were on board.

Local fire service spokesman Taufiqul Islam said divers were searching the scene for bodies, and reinforcements had been called in from neighbouring towns. Locals also joined the rescue efforts.

Police said at least seven people were taken to a local hospital after they were rescued from the sunken boat.

The incident occurred 82 km north of capital Dhaka. Local authorities have formed a committee to investigate the accident.

It was the latest in a string of similar incidents in the South Asian country. In April and May, 54 were killed in two separate boat capsizing accidents.

Experts blame poor maintenance, lax safety standards at shipyards and overcrowding for many of the deadly incidents.

Vessels transporting sand sit low in the water and can be hard to see in choppy conditions, particularly in poor lighting.

In June last year, a ferry sank in Dhaka after it was hit from behind by another ferry, killing at least 32 people. In February 2015, at least 78 people died when an overcrowded ship collided with a cargo boat.