At least 32 people were drowned and many were missing on Monday when a ferry carrying over 100 passengers capsized in Buriganga river after it was hit by a bigger vessel in the Bangladeshi capital here, officials said.
"It appeared to be an accident caused by negligence of the drivers," an official of the Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Authority (BIWTA) told reporters.
Rescuers feared several passengers were trapped inside the ferry which sank at around 9:30 am with nearly 100 passengers on board in the Buriganga river along the Shyambazar area of Old Dhaka.
"Thirty two bodies have been retrieved so far. Search is on for the missing ones," the BIWTA official said.
According to news channels, the victims include five women and two children. The victims are yet to be identified.
The ferry 'Morning Bird', which was coming to Dhaka from Munshiganj, capsized in the river after it was hit by another launch 'Moyur-2' near the Sadarghat launch terminal.
Following the accident, the driver and other staff of Moyur-2, which was carrying some 1,000 passengers, immediately left the scene and went into hiding, police said.
Navy and coast guard divers joined the fire service rescuers while a BIWTA salvage ship was deployed to retrieve the sunken Morning Bird, described by eye witnesses as a small dilapidated vessel, which quickly capsized after being hit from behind by the bigger vessel Moyur-2.
People along the shore immediately came to the aid of the victims with country boats before the arrival of the operators with rescue equipment, eye witnesses said.
It was not clear how many people swam to safety or how many are still missing.
"The muddy water is disrupting the rescue operation, affecting divers' visibility," a fire service official said.
Poor safety standards of vessels and their reckless driving have been repeatedly blamed for frequent ferry accidents in riverine Bangladesh. In most of the cases, the ferries carry passengers beyond their capacity.