DHAKA, Aug. 11 (Xinhua) -- Bangladesh authorities on Monday called off search operation for a jam-packed ferry that capsized with some 250 passengers on board seven days ago in the country's central Munishganj district, leaving 46 people dead and 61 others missing.
"We've decided to call off the search operation for the sunken ferry with considering all situations including inclement weather, " Saiful Hasan Badal, chief administrator of the district, told Xinhua.
Despite hectic efforts, he said divers could not locate any object or image of the double-decker ferry, MV Pinak, which capsized in Padma, one of the three rivers that form the Ganges Delta, at around 11:15 a.m. local time on Aug. 4.
The decision also followed the Bangladesh Meteorological Department's latest weather forecast as all the sea ports in the country have been advised to hoist local cautionary signal no- three.
Badal, however, said they will continue to search for bodies in the waters.
"We'll continue to search for bodies in the waters though search operation has formally ended," Badal.
Badal said at least six vessels from the Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Authority (BIWTA),Fire Brigade and Civil Defense, Bangladesh Navy and Coast Guard conducted an intensive search in around 50 square km area, but could not locate the sunken ferry.
"So far we understand that there is no possibility of locating the ferry from the 50 square km area which came under intense search. So we've decided to call off the search after consulting experts," he said.
"Forty-six bodies have so far been recovered and 61 were still missing, he said, adding "Most of the recovered bodies were decomposed, many beyond recognition."
Bangladeshi government has announced a grant of 120,000 taka ( about 1,538 U.S. dollars) for the burial of each identified and unidentified body.
Kaniz Fatema, assistant superintendent of police in Munshiganj district, some 27 km away from capital Dhaka, said some 120 people were either rescued or managed to swim ashore after the ferry capsized in high winds and rain on the Padma's Maowa-Kewrakandi river route.
Officials could not tell the exact number of the missing passengers. Ferry services in Bangladesh never maintain list of passengers and nor can exactly say how many passengers a ferry carries.
Munshiganj Police Chief Zakir Hossain Majumder had initially said the ferry was carrying about 200 passengers.
Like many other Dhaka-bound ferries, the ill-fated water taxi was overcrowded, some survivors said.
A seven-member probe committee, formed by the shipping ministry, will hear testimonies of survivors and witnesses. BIWTA has already sued six people, including the owner of the ferry and its master driver, on charges of negligence, overloading and unauthorized operations.
Boats and ferries are still commonly used as key means of transportation in Bangladesh which is criss-crossed by about 250 rivers.
However, the vessels are often overloaded or badly maintained, and accidents are quite common.
At least 138 bodies were recovered after an overcrowded ferry capsized in March 2012, also in Munshiganj.