Tuesday, 4 August 2015

One year of PINAK 6 capsize: No luck for the families of missing victims

One year ago, 21 unnamed dead bodies were buried at a local graveyard in Shibchar of Madaripur.

All of them died in one of the deadliest ever maritime mishaps on August 4 last year, when heavily loaded ferry Pinak 6 capsized in Padma River killing over a hundred passengers.

Rescuers retrieved 49 dead bodies at the time. Official count shows that 61 people are still missing from that accident, although many more families have claimed to have lost members.

The authorities were supposed to find out the identities of the bodies buried at that graveyard through DNA tests. But that has never happened.

They collected DNA samples from some families but most of them have been left out. It has been a year and the DNA test results have still not come.

The caretaker of that graveyard said that neither have anybody come there looking for the dead bodies, nor have anyone come to collect DNA samples since they were buried here one year ago.

As a result, these families – mostly from the low-income group – have not been able to get the cash compensation that the administration had announced after the accident.

Only those families who could identify or show proof that their members were among those deceased, got the money.

Suraton Nesa, a widow from the Sannashichar village in Shibchar, lost four members of her family – son, daughter, son-in-law and grandson – in that accident.

But since none of their bodies have been found, she failed to avail compensation. She does not even know if any of them are lying in that graveyard.

“We were already poor. Moreover, I had to spend most of my savings searching for the dead bodies after the accident. My son was the only bread-earner. I have been living from hand to mouth since. I have not got any compensation from the government because none of their dead bodies have been found,” Suraton said.

When contacted, Kamal Uddin Biswas, deputy commissioner of Madaripur district, said: “Except for one, each of the victim families were given Tk1.05 lakh as compensation. Any other victim families can apply for compensation by producing appropriate proof that they have missing members.”

Siblings Heera and Swarna and their cousin Lucky – all killed in that capsize – belongs to the family that did not accept compensation.

Nurul Haque, father of the siblings, said: “My daughter Heera was still alive when she was rescued and brought to the Mawa terminal. But she died before we took her to the government hospital in Munshiganj. If we could give her primary treatment at the Mawa terminal, we could have saved her life.

“This [Mawa] is such an important ferry terminal. But there are no first aid facilities here,” he said.

After the accident last year, Jahangir Bhuiya, inspector of the Mawa terminal, filed a case against Pinak 6 owner Abu Bakkar Siddique and five workers of the ferry. On August 14, ten days after the capsize, Siddique got arrested but there have not been much progress in that case since.

The ferry itself was never found. The Bangladesh Internal Water Transport Authority (BIWTA) tried with state-of-the-art sonar equipment but in vain.

Locals said that there was strong current in the river when the accident took place and this might have taken the ferry a long way downstream where it might now be resting on the river under a thick cover of sand.

The last time he spoke on the incident, Water Transport Minister Shajahan Khan said their priority after the accident was to hand the dead bodies over to their families; that was why they gave up on the operation to retrieve the ferry.

Tuesday 4 August 2015



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