At least 13 people are dead and several others missing after a passenger boat sank in a southern Bangladesh river, police said on Wednesday.

Rescuers retrieved the bodies from the Shandhya River after the boat capsized with roughly 60 passengers on board, district police chief SM Akhteruzzaman told dpa by phone.

Four people were rescued alive, the police chief said. He added that most of the passengers had been able to swim ashore.

The engine-propelled boat, the ML Oishi, went down when it was about to anchor at Dasherhaat station.

Akhteruzzaman estimated that some 10 others may still be missing. Most motorboats on river routes do not maintain passenger registers.

Divers from the Fire Service and Civil Defence and Bangladesh's Inland Water Transport Authority launched a rescue operation immediately after the accident, he said.

The reason behind the accident could not be determined immediately, but an official at Barisal Port Authority said that the boat was overcrowded with passengers when it sank.

“The boat was not registered for plying on river routes to ferry passengers,” Mustafizur Rahman, the port official, told reporters.

The government launched an investigation into the accident.

Poor monitoring system and overcrowding of ferries cause frequent accidents on river routes in Bangladesh, which is criss-crossed by more than 300 rivers, every year.

At least 70 people died after a double-deck ferry hit by a cargo vessel capsized in a river in central Bangladesh in February 2015.

Forty-nine people were confirmed dead and unknown number of passengers remained missing after a ferry carrying more than 200 passengers sank in the Padma River in August 2014, while dozens others were killed in another accident in May of the year.

Nearly 150 people were killed in March 2012 after an overcrowded ferry carrying about 200 passengers sank in central Bangladesh when it was hit by an oil tanker in the middle of the night.

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