India: Giant Wave Sinks Ferry

TWO more bodies have been pulled from a fast-flowing river in eastern India, taking the death toll to 18 after an overcrowded ferry capsized and sank, with scores of people still missing.

Coastguard and navy vessels searched for further victims of the ferry accident, which occurred on Saturday morning in West Bengal state.

“We now have collected 18 bodies from the river which is wide and turbulent, and we are uncertain of exactly how many more people are missing,” senior state police officer Surojit Karpurokayastha said.

The vessel was carrying about 150 people when it capsized in a river in the Sundarbans mangrove forest, 120km south of Kolkata, capital of West Bengal.

The boat had a capacity of just 60 passengers but was badly overloaded.

The passengers, mainly farmers and fishermen, were returning from a Muslim religious function.

Naval fishing vessels, hovercraft and helicopters joined the rescue operation when the search was restarted at dawn today, the Press Trust of India said, adding the 18 victims were 15 women and three girls.

Press reports said the boat had turned over after hitting a sand bank in rough conditions.

“The boat was badly overcrowded and the vessel sank after a giant wave slapped the side of the vessel,” West Bengal civil defence minister Srikumar Mukherjee said.

Fishermen plucked at least 60 survivors from the water while others managed to swim to safety, police said.

Rescuers erected floodlights on the river’s banks to make the search easier at night, but authorities feared that many of the victims had been swept away by the current.

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