The death toll in the ferry capsize in Padma river in central Bangladesh climbed to 23 today with 137 people still missing, three days after the tragedy.
"Until the midday today, 23 bodies had been retrieved after they were found floating in different areas downstream ...With 11 of those handed over to relatives," a spokesman of the Munshiganj district administration told reporters.
Bangladesh yesterday launched a search for the owner and captain of the overloaded ferry that sank in the Padma river. The official said 137 people were still missing with the navy, coastguard and fire service divers continuing their search for more bodies in downstream regions.
A third rescue vessel joined the salvage campaign to locate the sunken Pinak-6 which capsized on Monday with nearly 250 passengers on board.
The regulatory Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Authority (BIWTA) officials earlier said under the ship was plying on an expired licence under which the ferry was allowed to carry 85 passengers, but had nearly 250 people on board.
Inclement weather disrupted the rescue work as strong currents stirred up silt in the river which may have pushed the wreckage downstream from the site where the accident took place.
Three of the victims were close relatives of shipping minister Shahjahan Khan, who is facing intense criticism for failure to ensure safety of riverine routes.
Strong current in the turbulent river apparently upturned the ferry about 30km southwest of the capital while it was carrying nearly double the number of passengers than its capacity.
Over 100 passengers, however, were rescued alive by vessels and speedboats within hours of the accident.
Ferry accidents are common in riverine Bangladesh -- criss-crossed by some 230 river especially in the southern and northeastern regions -- with faulty design of boats and poor safety standards generally blamed for the disasters.
According to statistics tallied by the media, about 5,500 people have died in 658 ferry disasters since 1994 while 1500 people remained missing.