Scores dead after ferry catches fire in southern Bangladesh

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At least 32 people died on Friday when a packed ferry caught fire in southern Bangladesh, police said.

The incident happened early in the morning near the southern rural town of Jhalokathi, 250 kilometres (155 miles) south of the capital Dhaka. The vessel was carrying around 500 people.

"The three-storey Obhijan 10 caught fire mid-river. We have recovered 32 bodies. The death toll may rise. Most died from the fire and a few by drowning after they jumped into the river," local police chief Moinul Islam told AFP.

Islam said the fire was believed to have originated in the engine room and then ripped through the ferry packed with people returning home from Dhaka.

"We have sent some 100 people with burn injuries to the hospitals in Barisal," he said.

The accident was the latest in a string of similar incidents in the delta country criss-crossed by rivers.

Experts in the South Asian nation of 170 million people blame poor maintenance, lax safety standards at shipyards and overcrowding.

Fires are also a regular source of tragedy. In July, 52 people perished in a blaze in a food and beverage factory in Rupganj, an industrial town outside Dhaka.

At least 70 people died in February 2019 when fire tore through Dhaka apartments where chemicals were illegally stored.

In August at least 21 people were killed when 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 cargo ship's steel bow slammed into the other vessel near the town of Bijoynagar.

Divers had to scour more bodies in the murky muddy waters after the cargo ship's steel tip and the boat collided, causing the passenger vessel to capsize.

In April and May, 54 were killed in two separate accidents.

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 vessel.

(AFP)

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