200 feared dead as storm sinks boats in Bangladesh

Published: Wednesday, Nov. 13 2002 10:34 a.m. MST

COX'S BAZAR, Bangladesh — Nineteen boats sank in a fierce storm off Bangladesh on Wednesday, and officials and witnesses said about 200 men were missing and feared dead.

The bodies of two fishermen washed ashore. Rescue workers were battling high waves to search the seas and offshore islands for the missing men.

At least 10 wooden fishing trawlers with about 150 men sank off Cox's Bazar, 185 miles southeast of Dhaka, local official Azimuddin Chowdhury said. Eleven survivors reached shore but 140 were missing, he said.

Eight other fishing boats carrying about 60 fishermen were reported missing from the southern coastal district of Barisal.

In addition, a navy motor boat sank near the offshore island of Kutubdia. Its six crew members swam ashore, a navy spokesman said.

The fishermen said they were caught in the storm, which began Tuesday night, after ignoring warnings about the bad weather.

"We didn't think the storm would get us, so we decided to stay out," said one survivor, 25-year-old Mohammad Iqbal.

The tropical storm whipped up waves that swamped eight coastal districts in southern Bangladesh. Winds and torrential rains swept through most of southern and central Bangladesh, flooding dozens of villages and forcing thousands to flee their homes.

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