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URGENT Boat Sinks, Hundreds Feared Dead

May 26, 1986

DHAKA, Bangladesh (AP) _ A double-decker river boat carrying about 1,000 people capsized and sank during a storm, and a reporter said today more than 500 people were feared killed.

The vessel sank Sunday night in the Meghna River near the town of Barisal, 170 miles south of Dhaka.

Officials at Barisal told The Associated Press by telephone that rescue workers recovered 76 bodies and that many more bodies apparently were swept downstream. The officials said they expected to find more bodies in the hull of the sunken vessel.

The officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said two large rescue vessels went to the scene of the accident to conduct the salvage operation.

Mainul Hussain, a reporter for The Ittefaq, a Bengali-language daily, telephoned his office in Dhaka and said not more than 200 people had been able to swim to safety after the boat sank. He said at least 500 people were feared dead.

Hussain said the storm continued for more than an hour.

President Hussain Muhammad Ershad flew to the scene of the accident. A government inquiry was ordered.

The vessel, called the ″Shamia″, had been headed from the southern coastal district of Bhola to Dhaka, the capital, when it sank, the officials said.

On April 20, a double-decker river ferry capsized and sank during a storm on the Dhaleswari River, 10 miles south of Dhaka. The official death toll was given later as 200, but unofficial estimates put the number of dead at more than 500.

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