The toll could increase in the coming hours, because the ferry was carrying between “500 and 700 passengers”, according to the authorities.
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At least 37 people died on Friday, December 24, in an overloaded ferry fire on a river in Bangladesh. L’Obhijan 10, a three-story boat, caught fire in the middle of the river near the town of Jhalokathi, 250 km south of the capital Dhaka. “The death toll could rise. Most died in the fire and a few drowned after jumping into the river.”the local police chief told AFP. “We sent 100 people with burns to hospitals in Barisal.”
Witnesses said the fire started around 3 a.m. and quickly spread. Help arrived on site within an hour of the start of the fire and evacuated the injured to hospitals. “We spoke to passengers. And they say there were between 500 and 700 passengers.”, he told the district administrator to AFP. “The fire lasted four or five hours before it was put out. The ferry was completely destroyed, but they managed to bring it back to shore.”
The accident is the latest in a series of similar disasters in this low-lying country located around a delta made up of hundreds of rivers. Experts point to the lack of vessel maintenance, lax safety standards and the overcrowding of these boats.