At least 24 people, mostly children and women, were killed on Sunday after a boat carrying Hindu devotees to a centuries-old temple capsised in a river in northwestern Bangladesh, officials said.
The death toll is expected to rise further as at least 25 others are missing after the incident in Bangladesh’s Panchagarh district.
The devotees were heading towards the Bodeshwari Temple on the occasion of Mahalaya, the auspicious start of the Durga Puja festival, when the boat capsised in the Korotoa River.
“Around 24 people, including 8 children and 12 women have died in the incident so far. Some of them were declared dead after they were brought to a local hospital,” Solaiman Ali, administrative chief of Panchagargh’s Boda sub-district, told reporters.
He said searches by firefighters and local divers were underway for the missing ones, adding the number of passengers was assumed to be between 70 and 80.
Some survivors, who managed to swim ashore, are involved in the rescue operations.
Ali said the engine-run boat was carrying Hindu devotees to the centuries-old Bodeshwari Temple.
Panchagargh’s administrative chief or deputy commissioner Zahurul Haque said the boat was apparently carrying passengers beyond its capacity.
Thousands of Hindus in the Muslim-majority Bangladesh visit the Bodeshwari Temple every year during the Durga Puja, which began in Bangladesh on Sunday.
President Abdul Hamid and Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina have expressed condolences to the victims’ families in separate statements.
Local officials were asked to take steps for survivors’ treatment and compensation for the dead.
The Durga Puja is the biggest Hindu festival in Bangladesh and in eastern India.
Deltaic Bangladesh is crisscrossed by several hundred rivers while hundreds of people die each year in boat and ferry accidents in Bangladesh, largely due to overcrowding.
Twenty-six people died in May after an overcrowded speed boat collided with a sand-laden bulk carrier and sank on the Padma River.