YANGON: Rescuers have discovered 14 bodies and expect to find scores more after a ferry packed with teachers, students and workers capsized in central Myanmar, local authorities said Monday.
A total of 154 people have been rescued since the boat sank early Saturday morning about 72 kilometers (45 miles) north of the city of Monywa.
Search teams scouring the Chindwin River have located the sunken vessel, but fear the death toll could reach as high as 100.
“So far we have found 14 dead bodies from the river, but we still need to identify them,” director of the local relief and resettlement department, Sa Willy Frient, told Agence France-Presse.
“It was mainly university students and school teachers on the ferry that day,” he said, adding: “I think around 70 or 80 university students and about 30 school teachers, and also doctors.”
He estimated the boat was carrying 240-250 people, around 100 more than it is meant to carry.
Monywa is about 100 kilometers from Mandalay, Myanmar’s second-largest city.
Boat accidents are common in Myanmar, where people living along the nation’s long coastline and flood-prone river systems rely heavily on poorly maintained and often overcrowded ferries for transport.
Four of the ferry’s staff have been arrested and will face legal action, said Sa Willy Frient. Authorities are still hunting for one crew member and the ferry’s owner.
Survivor Hnin Lei Yee, a 27-year-old school teacher, was travelling with her husband and one-year-old daughter to celebrate the Buddhist Thadingyut festival with her family.
Her baby was killed in the disaster. She does not know her husband’s fate.
“It happened very fast,” she told Agence France-Presse. “The window was open so I had a chance to get out of the boat.”
“I cannot swim, so I had to hold on to a plastic float and finally the rescue boat came to save my life.”
“In the morning, I heard there was a dead child in the hospital and I went there. I saw my daughter dead,” she said, crying. AFP