The authorities concerned have smelled a rat over the repeated hits of Padma Bridge pillars by ferries as four ferries have smashed several pillars of the country’s largest bridge in the last one month while crossing the river.
A ferry once again hit a pillar of the Padma Multipurpose Bridge on Friday, just four days after the same pillar was struck by a ferry.
Meanwhile, Awami League general secretary Obaidul Quader urged the authorities concerned to conduct an investigation whether there is any conspiracy or sabotage over the incidents.
“Four ferry collisions with Padma Bridge pillars took place. It would be wrong to dismiss these incidents as trivial ones or a mere accident or incompetence of the driver,” he said.
Echoing the statement of Quader, Samil Uddin Ahmed Shimul, a member of the standing committee on the ministry of shipping, smelled a rat over the incidents and urged authorities concerned to conduct proper investigations.
On Friday morning, a ferry named ‘Kakoli’ hit the pile cap of the pillar on its way from Banglabazar Ghat in Madaripur to Shimulia Ghat in Munshiganj.
“The ferry hit the pillar number 10 in the morning on the way from Banglabazar to Shimulia,” said manager of Bangladesh Inland Water transport Corporation (BIWTC) Safayet Ahmed.
Later, the BIWTC has suspended two operators of the ferry for their failure to run it. Acting master Badal Hossain and ferry staff Abdur Rashid have temporarily been suspended over the incident.
The ferry was supposed to go through the pillars 11 and 12, but the vessel lost its control and hit pillar number 10 due to the strong current and wind, ferry driver Badal Hossain said.
“The ferry developed a crack after the collision. However, the crack was above the water level, so it did not sink,” he added.
The incident occurred just hours before State Minister for Shipping Khalid Mahmud Chowdhury’s scheduled visit to the Shimulia-Banglabazar waterway.
Following the incident, Khalid visited the Padma Bridge area and Majhirkandi Ghat in Madaripur.
Mentioning the repeated collisions between pillars and ferries as an ‘embarrassment’, Khalid said investigations into the incidents of hitting the pillars of the bridge are underway.
“Weaknesses and irresponsibility are also being examined. Action will be taken against those who acted irresponsibly. We are also giving importance to the issue of skills in operation of ferries,” he said while talking to reporters at Shimulia Ghat after visiting Padma Bridge and Majhirkandi Ghat areas in Madaripur.
“However, there is no chance of any damage to the bridge due to the incidents,” the junior minister said.
On Wednesday, ferry master Badal wrote a letter to assistant general manager (commerce), stating that there was less control over the ferry and that the pillar of the bridge could be hit if the ferry ‘Kakoli’ was run in the strong current of the Padma.
No action was taken even after giving in written. No request was made to divert the ferry from Shimulia-Banglabazar route to another route.
Due to the repeated collision between ferries and pillars of the bridge, the BIWTC has decided to shift Banglabazar Ghat to Majhirkandi in Shariatpur.
Talking to the media, BIWTC chairman Syed M Tajul Islam said ferries have hit pillars of the Padma Bridge due to heavy current.
“We’ve decided to shift the ferry station from Madaripur’s Banglabazar to Majhirkandi in Shariatpur. It will take at best one and a half months,” he said.
Earlier on August 9, a Ro Ro ferry ‘Birshreshtha Jahangir’ hit the same pillar number 10. Later on Tuesday, the BIWTC banned plying of ferries with heavy vehicles on Shimulia-Banglabazar route.
On July 23, another Ro Ro ferry, Shahjalal, struck pillar number 17 of the bridge and on July 20 Ro Ro ferry Shah Makhdum also collided with pillar number 16.
Earlier on Thursday, authorities concerned decided to ensure safety of the bridge by installing closed circuit cameras along with deploying army in every ferry during the crossing of the river, illuminating the pillars, setting up rubber around the pillars and ferries so that Padma Bridge will not suffer any loss in any accident.