Hundreds feared dead after Indian ferry boat capsizes

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Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Two small fishing boats framed by hills on both sides of the Saraighat Bridge across the river Brahmaputra.

A double-decker ferry capsized late Monday in the Brahmaputra River near Guwahati, India. The ferry was over capacity when a storm caused it to overturn and break in half. The ferry passengers were mostly women and children. Officials estimate there are at least 200 casualties. Inclement weather hindered rescue attempts and as of Tuesday, 103 bodies have been recovered. No life jackets or lifeboats were aboard the ferry at the time of the event.

According to officials, many of the bodies may have floated 25 miles down river to Bangladesh, due to strong currents. The river is a vital source of irrigation and transportation to the people along its coast. It is approximately 1,800 miles long, making rescue efforts difficult to pursue quickly. Rescuers are working around the clock in efforts to locate any remaining survivors.

About 150 passengers swam to a nearby shore. The remaining passengers are missing and are feared dead. Reports indicate this is one of the worst ferry accidents ever recorded in India. Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh issued a statement expressing his remorse over the death of the passengers and announcing that he would compensate the next of kin of all casualties Rs 200,000, or about $4,000 US dollars.