Bangladesh examining if Padma Bridge ferry incident was premeditated

The government is checking whether the collision between a ferry and a pier of the under-construction Padma Bridge was a deliberate act as part of a conspiracy, Obaidul Quader has said.

The bridge has suffered a disinformation campaign by an “anti-government force” since the beginning of the project, the road transport and bridges minister said at a news conference at his official residence in Dhaka on Sunday.  

Although the collision left the pier “unharmed”, Quader said, the government is checking if it was part of a conspiracy. “There were conspiracies over the bridge of pride earlier. So, it can’t be said for sure that there is no conspiracy now.”

The incident took place around 9:30 am Friday when the ferry, named Shah Jajal, was on its way to the Shimulia terminal from Banglabazar in Madaripur.

Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Authority has suspended Abdur Rahman, the ferry in-charge and inland master officer, due to his failure to properly operate the vessel. The collision left a big hole in the front side of the ferry.

Quader said the ferry weighed 1,284 tonnes while the Padma Bridge piers have the capacity to take a hit of up to 4,000 tonnes pressure. Padma Bridge Project Director Shafiqul Islam also said earlier the collision could not damage the pier.

The river had been turbulent since Friday morning and the ferryman lost control of the vessel due to a combination of inclement weather and high tides while entering the river, according to one of the passengers.

The vehicles on the vessel collided against each other on impact, leaving at least 20 passengers injured.

The ferryman did eventually regain control of the vessel and managed to guide it to the Shimulia port without any incident afterwards.

Rahman, the ferry operator, later said the vessel's electronic system had failed during the crossing. He managed to fix the problem immediately but not before the ferry hit the pillar.

Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Corporation has formed a four-member committee to investigate the incident.