A World War II-vintage ferry jammed with more than 500 Hindu pilgrims capsized on the rain-swollen Ganges River in eastern Bihar state Saturday, killing at least 40 people and leaving about 300 others missing and feared dead, officials said.
The accident came only hours after a strong earthquake hit parts of India, Bangladesh and Burma, causing three ferries to capsize in Bangladesh where 30 people were missing. The quake, centered in Burma just over the Indian border, sent shock waves rolling through a region spanning the eastern Himalayas to the north, to the Bay of Bengal in the south.In India, more than 500 Hindu pilgrims were believed to have been packed aboard the ferry that capsized and overcrowding was suspected to have caused the accident, authorities said.
Officials reached by telephone in Katihar, 155 miles southeast of the Bihar state capital of Patna, said more than 100 ferry passengers were able to swim ashore when the vessel capsized at about 10:40 a.m.
The pilgrims were traveling to the town of Sahibganj, 125 miles east of Patna, to worship at a nearby temple dedicated to Lord Shiva, the Hindu god of destruction, officials said.
"The casualties could be high because many of the passengers were women and children," one official said.
Rescue workers recovered the bodies of at least 40 people who drowned in the rushing current, the officials said, adding about 300 other passengers were missing and feared dead.
Rescue work was suspended at nightfall until Sunday morning.