DHAKA, BANGLADESH (AFP) - At least 46 people died in northeastern Bangladesh on Friday after a ferry capsized and sank, police said, the second such accident in the impoverished nation in a week.
The police chief of Kishorganj district, Anwar Hossain, said the passenger ferry sank on the Daira river, around 100 kilometres north of the capital Dhaka, at about 9:30 a.m. local time.
"Most of the victims are women and children," Hossain said, adding that 46 bodies had been retrieved and the ferry had been fully searched with the aid of specialist divers from Dhaka.
Shah Kamal, the chief government official in Kishorganj district, told AFP the exact number of passengers was unclear but they estimated about 100 passengers were on board when the vessel went down.
The cause of the accident was unclear.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina sent condolences to families of the victims and urged authorities to step up the rescue operation, spokesman Mahbubul Haque Shakil told AFP.
"She has conveyed her sympathies to the families of the victims and the premier also directed the local authorities to enhance the rescue mission," he said.
Boat and ferry accidents due to lax safety standards and overloading are common in Bangladesh, which is criss-crossed by 230 rivers.
At least 85 people drowned last Friday when an over-loaded triple-decker ferry in southern Bangladesh capsized.
Shipping Minister Shahjahan Khan said the accident was probably caused by a stampede of passengers during ticket checking.
The MV Coco-4, one of the country's largest inland vessels, was full of people travelling from cities to their home villages for the Muslim holy festival of Eid al-Azha last Saturday.
Police called off the search for more bodies on Friday morning, almost a week after the accident.
The government said last week it had filed a case against Tareque Rahman and Arafat Rahman Coco, sons of former Prime Minister Khaleda Zia, as owners of the vessel.
More than 3,000 people are estimated to have lost their lives in ferry accidents since 1977.
Bangladesh is the world's most densely populated country, with more than 1,000 people per square kilometre (0.4 square mile), but also one of the poorest.