DHAKA - Rescuers in Bangladesh pulled two bodies from the water and launched a search for survivors among the 200 passengers aboard an overloaded ferry that capsized on Friday in a river 300 km (186 miles) south of the capital, police said.

Low-lying Bangladesh, with extensive inland waterways and slack safety standards, has an appalling record of ferry accidents, with casualties sometimes running into the hundreds.

“Most of the passengers were able to swim ashore,” Babul Akhter, an official at the Barguna police station near the Paira river, where the ferry sank, told reporters.

There was no immediate estimate of the number of passengers unaccounted for, although two bodies had been retrieved, he said, adding that another vessel was on the way to help the rescue effort.

Most of those on board were heading to a religious gathering at Barguna, travelling from the coastal town of Kuakata, some 30 km (18.64 miles) away, Akhter said.

“Cracks developed as the boat was overloaded, and ultimately it capsized,” he added.

Last August, Bangladesh arrested the owner of a ferry that sank in a river, killing about 110 people, the first time such action was taken in a country where heavy loss of life is common in shipping accidents.