YANGON: Rescuers were frantically searching for survivors Saturday after an overloaded ferry sank in rough waters off the coast of western Myanmar killing more than 30 people and leaving at least a dozen more missing.
The “Aung Takon 3” went down late Friday after leaving the town of Kyaukphyu on its way to Sittwe in western Rakhine state, police said.
“The latest death toll is 33 — four men including a monk and 29 women. At least 12 persons are still missing,” a police officer in Sittwe town told AFP, speaking on condition of anonymity.
He added 169 people had now been rescued, and that no foreigners were believed to be on board the ship.
“We suspect that the boat sank because it was overloaded with goods,” the police officer said, adding that the ship was listed as carrying 214 passengers and crew.
But locals said they feared the ferry was packed with unregistered ticket holders who would not have shown up on the ship’s manifest, a common practice on the impoverished nation’s often overcrowded ferry network.
“We don’t know how many are still missing because some people were on board without official tickets,” Hla Shwe, a local from Ngaputhone village, which lies a few kilometres (miles) away from where the ship went down, told AFP by telephone.
“There are many dead bodies which didn’t appear yet,” local MP Maung Lone added, also by telephone. “We estimate about 300 people were on board.”
Three navy boats and a host of private vessels were sent to scour the area after news emerged that the ferry had sunk shortly after 8.30 pm (1400 GMT).