21 Dead, Dozens Missing After Myanmar Ferry Sinks

21 Dead, Dozens Missing After Myanmar Ferry Sinks21 Dead, Dozens Missing After Myanmar Ferry Sinks

Rescuers were frantically searching for survivors Saturday after an overloaded ferry sank in rough waters off the coast of western Myanmar killing at least 21 and leaving dozens 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.

“We have got 21 dead bodies, two men and 19 women. About 26 passengers are still missing,” a police officer in Sittwe town who requested anonymity told AFP.

He added 167 people had 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 thought to be carrying more than 200 passengers.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 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).

 Treacherous Waters

Many Myanmar citizens living along the nation’s lengthy coastline and flood-prone river systems rely heavily on poorly maintained ferries for transportation.

Sinkings are not uncommon. Ten people were killed in 2010 when a ferry capsized in the Irrawaddy delta region, while 38 perished in 2008 when a ship went down in the Yway River.

Locals said the area where the “Aung Takon 3” capsized was notorious for its treacherous waters.

“The tide there is very strong and the sea very rough. Fishing boats have often sunk in that area many times before,” Sittwe town resident Thein Zaw told AFP.