A river ferry carrying about 100 passengers capsized in central Bangladesh today after being hit by a cargo vessel, killing at least 31 people, officials said. A rescue operation was under way, but it was not clear how many people were missing. The ferry was struck by the cargo vessel at the Daulatdia-Paturia crossing on the Padma River, said a fire department official. Rescue teams were deployed and passing boats were helping in the operation. The site is 25 miles northwest of Dhaka, Bangladesh's capital. Ferry accidents are common in Bangladesh, which is crisscrossed by more than 130 rivers. The ferry was submerged at a depth of up to 20 feet, said Inspector Zihad Mia, who is overseeing the rescue operation. At least 31 bodies had been recovered, Mia said. He said officials had yet to determine how many passengers were missing.
"We don't have a clear picture about how many were exactly in the ferry when it sank," Mia said. "But I think many have survived." A passenger who survived said many people got trapped inside when the ferry sank. "The passengers who were on the deck have survived, but many who were inside got trapped," Hafizur Rahman Sheikh was quoted as saying by the Prothom Alo newspaper. Sheikh said the cargo vessel hit the middle of the ferry. The Padma is one of the largest rivers in Bangladesh, where overcrowding and poor safety standards are often blamed for ferry disasters. Last August, a ferry with a capacity of 85 passengers was found to be carrying more than 200 when it capsized on the Padma near Dhaka, leaving more than 100 people dead or missing.