Death toll rises to 66 after Bangladesh boat crowded with pilgrims capsizes

Death toll rises to 66 after Bangladesh boat crowded with pilgrims capsizes
In this image made from a video, people conduct search operation in the River Karatoa where an overcrowded boat overturned, in Panchagarh, Bangladesh Sunday, Sept. 25, 2022. A boat carrying about 100 Hindu pilgrims capsized Sunday in the river in northern Bangladesh, police said. (AP Photo)

Rescuers in northern Bangladesh have found more bodies from an overcrowded boat that capsized in one of the country’s worst recent river disasters, pushing the death toll to 66, officials said.

At least 15 more people are still unaccounted for, said Dipankar Roy, a senior government official in Panchagarh district, where the boat capsized on Sunday.

About 100 Hindu pilgrims were crossing the River Karatoa in the Boda area to celebrate a religious festival at a temple when their boat overturned, according to video footage in local media.

Just before the accident, onlookers from the river bank were shouting at the boatmen to navigate carefully.

Local police chief SM Sirajul Huda said the search would continue.

The Hindu community, the second largest in the Muslim-majority nation, is gearing up to celebrate one of its largest religious festivals, Durga Puja, next month.

Some 32,000 marquees were being prepared across Bangladesh, where idols of the goddess Durga will be set up to worship during the festival.

Authorities have ordered tight security for the temples and makeshift marquees because past celebrations have been marred by communal violence in some places.

About 8% of the more than 160 million people in Bangladesh are Hindu.

Boat accidents are common because of poor navigation, overcrowding and lax law enforcement in the delta nation crisscrossed by about 130 rivers.

Last year, a ferry capsizing killed at least 34 people while a fire on another left at least 39 people dead.

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