At least 50 die after ferry boat sinks in Myanmar

Rescue teams are searching the Chindwin River for missing passengers. The overloaded ferry was carrying more than 250 passengers out of which more than 150 have been rescued.

Photo by: AFP
Photo by: AFP

Rescue workers are seen on the sunken ferry partially lifted from the water near the river bank.

More than 50 bodies have been recovered from a ferry that sank in central Myanmar, a local official said Wednesday, warning the toll would keep rising as workers raise the capsized boat.

Scores of teachers and university students were onboard the overloaded vessel that went down early Saturday on the Chindwin River in the Sagaing region.

Some 150 people were rescued after the ferry sank on its way to Monywa, a city around 72 kilometres to the south.

Relatives watch as rescue personnel prepare to search for victims of the ferry that capsized near Monywa city in Sagaing region. (AFP Archive)

Officials believe the ferry could be carrying up to 250 people fearing the death toll could top 100 as they search through the boat.

Bloated corpses floated to the surface as searchers hauled the top part of the ferry out of the water with cranes on Wednesday.

"The total death toll has now reached 53," Sa Willy Frient, the local director of social welfare and resettlement who is leading the operation, told AFP.

"We are not sure if we can lift the whole sunken boat tonight. There could be many more dead bodies downstairs."

Government rescue personnel from the Myanmar Fire Services Deparment take part in a search operation on the Chindwin River. (AFP Archive)

Local monks have held memorial services for the dead, most of whom are thought to be women.

At least four of the boat's staff have been arrested and will face legal action, local authorities said.

Shipwrecks are common in Myanmar, a mostly rural and poor country with rudimentary transport infrastructure.

Many living along the nation's flood-prone river systems rely heavily on ferries, which are often overcrowded and poorly maintained.

The European Union said it was "deeply saddened" by the disaster, and expressed "heartfelt condolences" to the families and friends of the victims.

TRTWorld and agencies