DHAKA, Bangladesh (dpa) — Bangladeshi divers have rescued a man 13 hours after he was trapped inside a passenger ferry that capsized on a river near the capital Dhaka, officials said late Monday.
The ferry sank after colliding with another larger passenger ferry in the morning near Farazganj, leaving at least 32 people dead.
Fifteen bodies were found adrift more than two hours after the ferry sank in the Buriganga river, according to the Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Authority (BIWTA). Several passengers had managed to swim ashore.
The survivor, a man in his early 30s, emerged when the divers were trying to salvage the vessel using pillow lift bags during the night, Fire Service and Civil Defense official Debashish Bardhan told reporters.
An air-trap inside the sunken vessel might have helped him to survive, Bardhan said adding that the man was immediately rushed a hospital.
Video footage showed the rescuers were helping the survivor breathe as he was gasping for air.
Diving instructor SM Atiqur Rahman said it is possible to remain alive longer than 13 hours inside a sunken vessel provided that there is breathing space in an air pocket.
Authorities have confiscated the ship that hit the passenger ferry, said BIWTA chief Golam Sadeq, adding that the master of the ship had escaped immediately after the accident.
BIWTA said there had been at least 50 passengers on board, but a survivor told private broadcaster 71 Television that the vessel was carrying at least 100 passengers.
State Minister for Shipping Khalid Mahmud Chowdhury has assigned a five-member panel to investigate the accident.
The panel was asked to report back in seven days, the minister said, adding that those responsible for the tragedy would be brought to justice.
Serious accidents involving ferries are quite common in Bangladesh, a country of many rivers.
Experts blame poor safety measures and the lax implementation of regulations.