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Bangladesh: Hindu pilgrims' boat tragedy claims 51 lives, dozens missing

The incident happened in the Panchgarh district in the far north of Bangladesh. (Photo: Supplied)

The tragedy occurred when the boat carrying some one hundred passengers, about double the capacity, sank on the Karatoya River in the Boda area of Bangladesh on September 25.

The incident happened in the Panchgarh district in the far north of the country. Several families were on their way to a temple for the Mahalaya Hindu festival. 

The origin of the disaster was allegedly the overcrowding of the hulls. Every year in Bangladesh, hundreds of people are killed by shipwrecks on rivers. 

Police said at least 51 people died and a dozen people are still missing. 

The small boat, packed mostly with women and children on their way to a popular temple, flipped over on Sunday in a river as onlookers screamed from the shore. 

The pilgrims were heading to Badheshwar temple on the other side of the river to join Mahalaya Puja, to start the Durga Puja festival, when the boat capsized, allegedly due to overcrowding.

Regional police Chief Sirajul Huda said fire service and navy divers recovered 26 bodies in the Karotoa River downstream from where the boat tipped over.

It was carrying around 90 people, of whom around 50 were pilgrims on their way to the centuries-old Hindu temple for a major festival, according to police.

One of the devotees, Mukol Chandra Roy, said that survivors were on their way with their families to the temple facing the Karatoya river. The boat was overloaded and started to sway in the middle of the river. The sailor tried to pull it back, but the hull capsized. Among the victims, nine were children, and 13 were women.

Chandra Roy said that he, his wife Joyanti Rani, and his brother Adito Roy's son managed to save themselves by swimming, but many did not make it back." 

"Many Hindu worshippers died before our eyes," he explained. 

Thousands of Hindus in Muslim-majority Bangladesh visit the famous Bodeshwari Temple every year. 

Sunday marked the start of Durga Puja, the biggest Hindu festival in Bangladesh—and also eastern India—attracting large crowds to the temple. 

Hundreds of people die each year in ferry accidents in Bangladesh, a low-lying country that has extensive inland waterways and lax safety standards. 

Last December, around 40 people perished when a packed three-story ferry caught fire in southern Bangladesh. 

At least 34 people died in April 2021 after an overcrowded ferry collided with a cargo vessel and sank on the Shitalakhsya River outside the capital, Dhaka. 

A ferry sank in Dhaka in June 2020 after a collision with another vessel, killing at least 32 people. 

Muslims constitute 91% of 166,303,498 people, Hindus make up 8%, Buddhists 0.6%, Christians 0.3%, and others 0.1%. 

Bangladesh, a low-lying South Asian country, is crisscrossed by hundreds of rivers that form the world’s largest river delta system that empties into the Bay of Bengal.  - Nikhil Gomes


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