DHAKA, Bangladesh — Police recovered more than 160 bodies Monday from a riverboat that capsized and sank during a cyclone. Authorities said that as many as 1,500 people were on board the Shamia, a double-decker ferry, and that hundreds more may have drowned.
The ferry went down near Kalikapur, 180 miles south of Bangladesh's capital of Dhaka, when a cyclone swept over most of the nation's coast on Sunday night.
The boat, built to hold only 500 passengers, was on a trip from Bhola, an island in the Bay of Bengal, to Dhaka. Many of the Muslim passengers were returning from Ramadan fasting.
Officials said that at least 60 people swam to shore and that 160 bodies were found Monday in the Meghna River, several miles down river from where the ship sank. A round-the-clock rescue operation was under way in the remote area.
Bangladeshi President Hussain Mohammed Ershad went to the disaster site and ordered an immediate suspension of service by all double-decker launches. He also suspended the officials who issue maritime-fitness certificates.
Akram Hussain, secretary of ports and shipping, said many of the nation's approximately 100 double-deck ferries have structural defects and that the government will have them examined by experts from the University of Engineering and Technology in Dhaka.
The accident took place a little more than a month after another ferry disaster at Munshiganj, when the double-decker Atlas Star sank with the loss of more than 200 people.