At least 32 passengers drowned and many went missing in a tragic launch capsize in Buriganga river near Sadarghat launch terminal in the capital on Monday.
Witnesses said ML Morning Bird with around 80 passengers on board sank in Buriganga as it was smashed by another launch MV Mayour-2 around 9:32am.“Mayour-2 rammed into the middle part of ML Morning Bird, leaving it capsized in the river,” a survivor said.
The tragic accident took place a few minutes before the arrival of Morning Bird in Dhaka from Munshiganj, he added.
On information, members of the Fire Service, the Coast Guard, the Naval Police and the Navy rushed to the spot and started a rescue operation.
Thirty-two bodies were recovered from the river till 6:15pm, Lima Khanom, a duty officer of the Fire Service and Civil Defence control room, told daily sun.
Twenty-one males, eight females and three children were among the deceased, she said.
Locals said few passengers managed to swim ashore, but many remained missing.Relatives of the victims thronged Shadarghat area in search of their beloved ones.
BIWTA rescue vessel Prottoy started from Narayanganj to salvage the sunken launch. The ship could not reach the spot as its height struck Postagola Bridge in the capital.
Many survivors claimed that Morning Bird was carrying more than 150 passengers. Around 50 managed to swim ashore.
AKM Arif Uddin, joint director of Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Authority (BIWTA), said there were 70-80 passengers in the launch and 30-40 of them managed to swim ashore with the help of locals.
Hearing the news of the tragic accident, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina was closely monitoring the development of the rescue and salvage operations.
The bodies were sent to Sir Salimullah Medical College (Mitford).
Mizanur Rahman, officer-in-charge of Kotwali police station, said the identified bodies were handed over to their families.
ShajahanShikder, deputy assistant director (media) of the Fire Service and Civil Defence Headquarters, said the sunken launch was traced around 11:33am.
Meanwhile, the BIWTA seized Mayour-2 launch, but its master and other staff remained fugitive.
Joint Director AKM Arif Uddin said, “We seized Mayour-2 launch but its master and other staff managed to flee the scene.”
State Minister for Shipping Khalid Mahmud Chowdhury alleged that the launch capsize in the Buriganga River seems to be planned.
“Today’s incident is totally different from others. I have seen the CCTV footage and it appears to me that the incident was carried out intentionally. It seemed to be a murder," he told reporters after visiting the spot around 3:32pm.
“An investigation is underway to find out the reason behind the launch accident. People responsible for the incident will face the music,” he added.
Meanwhile, the state minister also said families of each of the deceased will get Tk 1.5 lakh as compensation.
Sources said the families instantly received Tk 10,000 from the BIWTA and Tk 20,000 from the deputy commissioner for their burial.
The Ministry of Shipping and the BIWTA separately formed two investigation committees over the launch capsize incident.
The BIWTA formed a four-member committee to investigate the launch capsize. The committee, headed by Joint Director Joynul Abedin, will submit a report within 72 hours.
BIWTA chairman Commodore Golam Sadeq said: “As per the design, the capacity of the launch is to carry 45 passengers, but it seems to have carried few more passengers. However, a collision between two launches caused the accident.”
“As most of the bodies have been recovered, we are now trying to pull up the sunken launch. Then we will have more information on the cause of the accident,” he added.
The Ministry of Shipping formed a seven-member inquiry committee with Joint Secretary (Development) of the Ministry of Shipping Md Rafiqul Islam Khan as the convener and Director (Shipping) of BIWTA Md Rafiqul Islam as member secretary.
The ministry issued an office order in this regard. The committee will submit a report to the Ministry of Shipping within the next seven days.
Relatives of the missing people have been asked to contact the BIWTA on 01716026704.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina expressed profound sorrow at the loss of many lives in the launch capsize.
She prayed for eternal peace of the departed souls and expressed sympathy to the bereaved families.
Bangladesh Passengers Welfare Association (BPWA) demanded immediate rescue of the victims, their medical treatment and a proper compensation.
BPWA Secretary General Mozammel Hoque Chowdhury made the demand in a press release.