Divers from the local fire station and river police rushed to the scene and joined the rescue operation.

An overcrowded speedboat carrying more than 30 passengers and defying COVID-19 restrictions capsized after hitting a stationary freighter loaded with sand in the Padma River on Monday, killing at least 26, a senior Bangladeshi police official said .

The accident happened at the old Kanthalbari ferry terminal in Shibchar upazila of Madaripur at around 8 a.m. The boat, driven by an inexperienced driver, overturned in the Padma River in central Bangladesh as it was heading towards Madaripur district from Munshiganj district.

Rescuers recovered at least 26 bodies, police said.

“We recovered 26 bodies, saved five others alive. But research is underway to find out more because several speedboat passengers are feared missing,” said Ashiqur Rahman, the police inspector of a terminal. ferry nearby.

He said they had been informed that the driver of the speedboat was an inexperienced young miner.

“Witnesses and survivors said the boat was carrying more than 30 passengers and the ship was carrying sand in the Padma River near the Shibchar town of Madaripur,” he said.

Divers from the local fire station and river police rushed to the scene and joined the rescue operation, he added.

All of those who died – a woman and 25 men – were passengers on the speedboat, the Daily Star newspaper reported.

The speedboat was carrying excess passengers, violating the restriction imposed by the government amid the pandemic situation, the report said, citing Madaripur deputy commissioner Rahima Khatun.

Bangladesh is on lockdown until Wednesday to stem the spread of the coronavirus.

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The accident happened because there was not enough light in the morning and the driver was not qualified enough, the deputy commissioner said.

A six-member investigation committee was formed to investigate the accident.

Hundreds of people die each year in shipping accidents in Bangladesh, a low-lying country with vast inland waterways and lax safety standards.