The death toll from the capsizing of an overcrowded boat carrying Hindu pilgrims in northern Bangladesh climbed up to 66 as rescuers found more bodies, making it one of the worst river disasters in the country.
The incident took place last Sunday when about 100 pilgrims were crossing the river Karatoa in the Boda area to celebrate the Hindu religious festival of Mahalaya in a temple.
At least 15 more people are still unaccounted for, said Dipankar Roy, a senior government official in the Panchagarh district, where the boat capsized.
The death toll in the incident is the worst for a maritime disaster in the country since 2015, when at least 78 people died after an overcrowded ferry collided with a cargo vessel in a river west of the capital Dhaka.
Local police chief SM Sirajul Huda said the search would continue as onlookers and relatives of the missing gathered along the river bank.
"I just want to see the face of my mother," Deepak Chandra Roy said, speaking through tears as he searched for his mother. His son was rescued.
A five-member committee is probing the capsizing of the boat but the preliminary report suggests that it was ferrying almost three times its capacity, said Jahurul Islam, chief administrator of the northern district of Panchagarh.
The Hindu community, the second largest in the Muslim-majority nation, is preparing to celebrate one of its largest festivals – Durga Puja – next month.
About 32,000 pandals are being prepared across Bangladesh where the idols of goddess Durga will be set up to worship during the festival, with authorities ordering tight security.
Dozens of people die each year in ferry accidents due to poor navigation, overcrowding and lax enforcement of safety standards in Bangladesh, a low-lying country with extensive inland waterways.
Last year, a ferry capsize killed at least 34 people while a fire on another ferry left at least 39 people dead.
Additional reporting from the wires