Death toll in Meghna river launch disaster reaches 66
MUNSHIGANJ: The death toll from Tuesday’s ferry capsize in the river Meghna climbed to 66 after rescuers recovered more bodies on Wednesday, officials said.
The ferry, MV Shariatpur-1, carrying more than 300 passengers capsized early Tuesday in the Munshiganj district’s Gojaria upazila.
Scores remained missing but authorities could not specify how many.
The rescue operation was suspended for the night around 10pm on Tuesday. A second rescue ship Hamza reached the spot early Wednesday and after a short interval in the morning due to insufficient lighting Hamza dragged out the sunken launch 100 yards from the mainstream of Meghna.
Divers and villagers recovered 30 more bodies on Wednesday morning when the rescue operation resumed, BIWTA deputy director Rafiqul Islam said.
Local administration has identified 34 bodies so far. They have handed over 31 bodies to their relatives, Munshiganj’s additional district magistrate Mahfuzul Haque told bdnews24.com.
About 30 people were rescued after the ferry collided with a cargo boat on the river in the district, about 32 kilomtres south of the capital, Dhaka.
BIWTA chairman Shamsuddoha Khandoker told reporters on Tuesday the ferry was traced 70 feet under water.
Khandoker said the divers were still looking for bodies.
BIWTA chief said the capsized launch weighs nearly 200 tonnes and the combined lifting capacity of Rustam and Hamza is around 120 tonnes.
The rescue ships have lifted the capsized launch and dragged about 600 feet towards the bank but could not take it to the bank finally as its bottom got stuck in the river bed, Rafiqul said.
Meanwhile, three separate probe committees have been formed by shipping ministry, BIWTA and another directorate of the ministry.
The shipping minister Shahjahan Khan had visited the spot on Tuesday and promised compensation to the families of the deceased.
“Every family of the deceased will be given Tk 30,000. If there are more than one dead in a single family, they will be given Tk 45,000,” he told reporters.
Munshiganj’s deputy commissioner Mohammad Azizul Alam had said, quoting survivors, that the accident occurred around 2:30am on Tuesday after an oil tanker rammed into it.
Relatives of the missing passengers have gathered on the bank of the river.
MV Mitali’s Ansar commander Abdul Halim said, “We released all our buoys immediately after we saw the Shariatpur-1 sinking. Around 30 were rescued.”
It is difficult to get a reliable estimate as ferry operators rarely keep a list of passengers. Most passengers buy tickets once on board.