Tuesday, 24 February 2015

Bangladesh ferry disaster death toll rises

The death toll in Bangladesh's passenger ferry tragedy on the river Padma in Manikganj, near Dhaka, has risen to 72.

Two more dead bodies were unofficially claimed, soon after official announcement of the recovery of 70 bodies on 23 February.

At least five passengers remain missing, Bangladesh Department of Shipping's (DoS's) chief nautical surveyor Jashim Uddin Sarker told IHS Maritime.

He said around 120 passengers were saved by local rescuers and other vessels from Padma, which is the Bangladesh part of the river Ganges. However, family members of at least 30 missing passengers are still searching for bodies in the disaster area, according to the reports published today (24 February) in local media. The exact number of those on board has not yet been determined.

The over-loaded double-decker motor launch, Mostafa, with an estimated 200 passengers, capsized after being hit by fertiliser laden cargo vessel Nargis-1 and sank on 22 February before noon, near the Paturia terminal. Mostafa was heading towards Paturia from nearby Daulatdia. According to Sarker, Nargis-1 is a bay-crossing vessel, weighing around 330 gt. DoS's chief engineer, Fakhrul Islam, confirmed to IHS Maritime that the names of both vessels were correct and registered with the department.

Of the recovered dead bodies of 28 women, 15 children, and 27 men, 29 were recovered from the cabin of the salvaged Mostafa. The vessel was salvaged on 23 February morning, when the Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Authority (BIWTA)'s salvage ship Rustam pulled the ferry out of the mid-stream of the Padma, BIWTA chairman Dr Samsuddoha Khondaker told IHS Maritime.

Sarker said the latest two reported bodies recovered by rescuers may be counted unofficially as the search for bodies continues by private operators and the local district administration, including the local fire service. DoS sources said the government will continue the search for bodies for several days.

Islam said Mostafa's night-time capacity was 62 passengers, while the day-time capacity was 140. DoS officials admitted that such vessels are known to have violated capacity regulations and that the operations of cargo vessels is inadequately overseen by law enforcers due to shortages of equipment and manpower. As a result accidents occur every year, with large numbers of casualties.

The police arrested the captain of Nargis-1, the vessel that reportedly ran into the side of Mostafa causing it to capsize. A three-member committee from the DoS has been set up to determine the cause of the accident. Witnesses said Mostafa sank shortly after being hit by Nargis-1.

Tuesday 24 February 2015


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