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Dozens of schoolchildren killed as truck carrying about 60 plunges in canal in Bangladesh
DHAKA, Bangladesh (AP) ' A vehicle packed with schoolchildren returning home from a soccer tournament crashed into a canal in southeastern Bangladesh on Monday, killing at least 44, a police official said.
Rescuers pulled the vehicle out of the canal in the evening as they continued searching for survivors or bodies. Military troops joined the rescue, and doctors from nearby towns were deployed to help the survivors.
About 60 people, mostly children between ages 8 and 12, were on the vehicle that crashed, police official Iftekhar Hasan said.
The cargo truck had been hired to take the students home after they watched the tournament, he said. Hiring such trucks is a usual practice in Bangladesh for a quick group ride during festivals or celebrations.
"According to several witnesses the boys were singing and dancing on board the truck," said Hasan. "The truck skidded off the muddy road and turned (over) as it plunged into the canal."
The crash occurred in Chittagong district, 216 kilometers (136 miles) southeast of the capital, Dhaka. The cause wasn't known, but one report said the driver was talking on his phone and lost control while trying to give room for a vehicle coming from the opposite direction.
By evening, rescuers recovered 44 bodies from the wreckage. Hasan said at least 12 children were being treated at hospitals but could not give an exact figure of the survivors.
It was not immediately clear if the driver of the vehicle was among the dead.
Residents from about 10 villages joined a funeral prayer late Monday on the premises of a school in the area as authorities and relatives prepared for the burials of many victims.
Earlier angry residents had vandalized some vehicles in the area as they complained the rescuers were late to reach the scene. Video footage showed some relatives of the dead wailing at their homes and in the hospitals.
President Zillur Rahman and Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina condoled the deaths.
Road accidents are common in Bangladesh due to reckless driving, lax traffic rules and poor road conditions.