A t least 44 people are feared dead after an over-loaded Mekong River ferry sank
about seven km northwest of the capital, Reasemey Kampuchea reported. Another 60
survived by swimming the one km to shore at Prek Leap or by being picked up by
six small boats which went to the rescue.
Twenty students from Prek Leap
Agricultural College, elderly women and children are believed among the victims
of the disaster in the early morning of Feb 14.
Gen Veng Chak was quoted
as saying that 13 bodies had been recovered from the scene and another 31 were
He said that many of the other corpses may have
floated further downstream.
The owner and captain of the ferry Tai Bou,
47, of Chbar Ampeou commune on the east bank of the Tonle Bassac river
reportedly fled the scene after getting ashore. Police have confiscated another
of his ships while the hunt for him continues.
Some of the survivors said
he ignored their pleas not to over-load the ferry.
More than 50
motorcycles and farm produce heading for Phnom Penh markets were also crammed on
board with the passengers.
The ferry changed course suddenly and was
traveling at too high a speed, causing it to take on water and sink, Reasmey
One of the survivors, Wan Naa, spoke briefly to the
Post the day after the disaster, before boarding a ferry similar to the one
which went down. He said: "I cannot swim well but some of the people in the
water helped me. I also found a piece of wood to help me get to the
All that could be seen of the ferry is the extreme prow of the
boat poking just above the water, with the boat lying vertically and the stern
resting on the bottom
When the Post visited the scene on-lookers suddenly
became excited after some believed they had spotted a body. A launch was sent
out but was called back to shore by a military policemen, who loosed off some
warning shots from his M-16. He was apparently worried that the body would be
looted though the boatmen had been unable to find it.
A detachment of
soldiers and police then launched another search in a larger boat. The ferry was
later raised and 47 motorcycles recovered.