Myanmar ferry
Overcrowded ferry boats have been the cause of a number of accidents on Myanmar's waterways REUTERS/Damir Sagolj

While authorities have given up hopes of finding any more survivors of the Myanmar ferry sinking, search efforts continue to retrieve bodies of passengers who drowned in the Chindwin River on 15 October. According to the latest updates, 32 bodies have been recovered from the site. Officials say that the death toll could reach 100 at least.

The boat, which was meant to carry up to 150 people, was overloaded with over 250 passengers and goods as it made its way from Homalin to the city of Monywa. A total of 154 people were rescued on the day of the accident but since then, search teams have only been able to find corpses floating in the water.

Director of the regional relief and resettlement department Sa Willy Frient, expressed concerns that once the vessel was lifted from the water, they would find more bodies. "So far we have recovered 32 dead bodies," he said. "We are trying to raise the boat using a crane after tying it with strong ropes. After we lift it out, the death toll will be higher."

Most of the passengers on the ferry were students from a local university, schoolteachers and workers travelling home to celebrate the local Buddhist festival of Thadingyut.

One survivor, 27-year-old school teacher Hnin Lei Yee, was travelling with her husband and one- year-old daughter. Yee was able to escape through an open window and hold on to a flotation device. However, her baby drowned and her husband is still missing.

"In the morning, I heard there was a dead child in the hospital and I went there. I saw my daughter dead," she told AFP.

Authorities have arrested four of the ferry's staff and are currently searching for the boat's owner and one crew member.

"I have never known of a boat sinking where so many people have died in this area" local lawmaker Shwin Htay said of the level of human loss the accident has caused.

Ferry accidents are common in Myanmar, but the recent one on the Chindwin River may end up having the most number of fatalities. In April, a boat in Rakhine capsized, killing 21 people, including nine children. In March 2015, an overloaded ferry sank off the west coast of the country, killing 52 people.