The ferry that capsized in Bangladesh with hundreds of people on board this week had a capacity of only 85 passengers, the country's shipping minister said Wednesday as he announced charges against the vessel's owner and five of its employees.
At least 125 people are presumed dead after the M.V. Pinak went down Monday in strong currents in the Padma River, according to Shipping Minister Shajahan Khan.
More than 200 people were believed to be on board, although the exact figure is unclear because ferry operators in Bangladesh rarely keep passenger lists. Khan said the ferry operator had picked up more passengers from a second stop after departing with an already overloaded vessel earlier in the day.
"This disaster was not supposed to take place," he said.
Police were searching for the ferry's owner and five others to face charges of negligence, overloading and unauthorized operations.
Three days after the tragedy, rescue workers have still had not found the sunken vessel — or the scores of bodies believed to be trapped inside. Khan said choppy conditions were hampering the search.
Families of the missing accused the authorities of launching a feeble rescue effort.
"Can't I expect (them to find) the body of my sister? What are they doing? Nothing," said Monir Hossain.
Scores of people die in ferry accidents every year in Bangladesh, where boats are a common form of transportation. The Padma is one of the largest rivers in the delta nation, which is crisscrossed by more than 130 rivers.
Poor safety standards and overcrowding are often blamed for the accidents. In May, about 50 people died in a ferry accident in the same district.
The ferry M.V. Pinak was one of dozens of such small ferries that are technically banned from running in rough conditions like Monday's high waves and choppy waters, but the law is often ignored.