At least 21 people have been killed and dozens remain missing after a passenger ferry carrying more than 200 people on board capsized off Myanmar, officials said Saturday, according to media reports. Authorities believe that nearly 50 people are missing, while rescuers pulled out 167 people from the sea, the Associated Press reported.
The government-owned Aung Tagun 3 reportedly went down near Myebon in the west coast state of Rakhine, while traveling from the coastal town of Taunggok to Sittwe, after it ran into high seas late Friday. A transport ministry official told Reuters that the missing people are believed to be dead. Officials reportedly said that three navy boats and several private vessels were scouring the area to find those still unaccounted, which included about 30 women.
"We have got 21 dead bodies, two men and 19 women,” a police officer in Sittwe told Agence France-Presse, adding that authorities suspected the boat sank due to overloading of goods.
Locals at the Taunggok town claimed that the number of people missing must be higher as the ferry would have been overloaded because of several unregistered passengers, according to Reuters.
"Normally, the number of tickets sold is not reliable when it comes to the number of passengers. That's very common," a Taunggok merchant, who was not named, reportedly said. "So the number of missing must be many more ... We understand the chances of finding them in this weather are very slim."
Ferry accidents due to overloading and bad weather are reportedly common in Myanmar's coastal regions.