The death toll from the launch capsize in the Shitalakshya River stood at 29 after the launch was pulled out on Monday.
Most of the bodies retrieved were inside the sunken vessel, said the authorities concerned.The launch ‘MV Sabit Al Hasan’ sank in the river near the third Shitalakkhya Bridge at Koylaghat of Syedpur in Narayanganj after being hit with a sand carrying bulkhead ‘SKL-3’ on Sunday evening.
Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Authority (BIWTA) said the launch with 47 passengers left the Narayanganj launch terminal for going to Munshiganj at about 5:56 pm. Of the passengers, 20 could be rescued while the rest drowned.
But some survivors said the launch had many more passengers. Many are believed to be missing. Relatives of the missing passengers crowded on the bank of the river on Monday in search of their loved ones.
BIWTA chairman Commodore Golam Sadeq said the bodies of five women were recovered on Sunday night while the 22 bodies were found on Monday after the launch was pulled out from water at about 11:30 am.
He declared the rescue operation-- participated by police, Fire Service and Civil Defence, BIWTA, Coast Guard, Bangladesh Navy and some others— to an end at 1:00 pm.
He said they found a video on the capsize. The video shows the bulkhead hit the launch in the mid of the river and dragged it a little distance away, he added.Mustain Billah, deputy commissioner (DC) of Narayanganj District, told the Daily Sun that they identified all the 27 bodies and handed over to their family members.
“We have given Tk 25,000 to the families of each deceased to support their burial,” he said.
The owner and driver of the bulkhead could not be identified, said Shahidul Alam, officer-in-charge (OC) of Narayanganj Sadar River Police.
They were trying to identify the owner and driver of the bulkhead, he said.
Three probe bodies have been formed to look into the matter.
Narayanganj Deputy Commissioner (DC) Mostain Billah said they formed a seven-member probe committee headed by Additional District Magistrate (ADM) Kharija Tahera Bobby to investigate the incident. Besides, BIWTA formed a four-member investigation committee led by its Director (Maritime Security) Rafiqul Islam.
The shipping ministry also formed a probe committee to look into the incident.
Sunit Saha, 40, with her two sons--Bikas Saha, 22, and Akash Saha, 12, came to the National Institute of Ophthalmology and Hospital in the capital from Munshiganj on Sunday morning.
Sadhon Saha, the husband of the woman, told journalists that his wife told him that they got on a launch in the evening.
“After that, I watched the launch capsize news on the television. At about 3:00 am, I got the body of my wife,” he said.
“I still do not know anything about the fate of my two sons,” he said.
When contacted to know whether the sunken launch had fitness, Mobarrak Hossain Majumder, public relations officer of the BIWTA, told the Daily Sun that the launch looked an unfit one, but it had a fitness certificate.
Like this launch, most of the launches cruising between Narayanganj and Munshiganh route looked unfit, he said. “How fitness certificates could be obtained from the Department of Shipping (DoS) against such launches?” he questioned.
Parveen Sultana, the prosecutor of the DoS and its spokesperson, could not be contacted for comments despite several attempts over her phone.