YANGON • At least 32 people have died after a ferry sank in a river in north-western Myanmar, with scores missing, rescue officials have said.
About 150 people had been rescued from the Chindwin River in the Sagaing region after the ferry capsized last Saturday, said Mr Sa Willy Frank, head of the regional relief department, who is overseeing the operation.
As of 4pm local time yesterday, 32 bodies had been recovered, leaving more than 60 people still unaccounted for amid a continuing salvage operation, he said.
Search teams, who are securing the boat with ropes so that it can be hauled out by a crane, fear that the death toll could go as high as 100.
The ferry was travelling from Homalin to Monywa when it sank at about 5am last Saturday close to Kani, about 137km north-west of Mandalay.
Mr Sa Willy Frank said the ferry was filled with "mainly university students and schoolteachers".
He added: "I think (there were) around 70 or 80 university students and about 30 schoolteachers, and also doctors."
Mr Kyaw Htay Lwin, a lawmaker in the Sagaing regional Parliament, said the number of missing persons could be higher.
"I heard from witnesses that the boat was packed with at least 300 passengers, despite its official capacity of around 120," he said.
Four of the boat's employees have been arrested and will face legal action, said Mr Sa Willy Frank.
The authorities are still searching for one crew member and the owner of the ferry.
Survivor Hnin Lei Yee, a 27- year-old schoolteacher, was travelling with her husband and one- year-old daughter to celebrate the Buddhist Thadingyut festival with her family.
"It happened very fast," she said. "The window was open, so I had a chance to get out of the boat.
"In the morning, I heard there was a dead child in the hospital and I went there. I saw my daughter - she was dead," she said, weeping.
She still does not know the fate of her husband.
REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE