Relatives gathered at the riverbank to search for their loved ones as divers and a large crane worked nearby.
The ferry, carrying around 50 passengers, sank on Sunday (April 4) just after it departed from the industrial Narayanganj district about 20 kms (12 miles) from Dhaka, to Munshiganj, said Mustain Billah, Narayanganj district administrator.
Police and officials said some of the passengers managed to swim ashore.
Salvage operations had been hampered by a storm the previous night.
The boat was packed with people rushing to leave the city after the government announced a week-long nationwide lockdown from Monday to tackle a spike in COVID-19 cases.