Death toll from Buriganga launch capsize rises to 32

  • Senior Correspondent, bdnews24.com
    Published: 2020-06-29 12:35:31 BdST

The death toll from the fatal collision between two launches on the Buriganga River has climbed to 32 after two more bodies were pulled from the river.

The incident took place near Dhaka’s Shyambazar at around 9:30 am on Monday, according to the Fire Service.

The launch, Morning Bird, was heading toward Sadarghat from Munshiganj when it collided with the Moyuri-2 vessel from Chandpur, said BIWTA transport inspector Md Selim.

Bodies recovered by rescuers are lined up after a launch sank on the Buriganga River near Dhaka's Shyambazar following a collision with another vessel on Monday. Photo: Mahmud Zaman Ovi

Bodies recovered by rescuers are lined up after a launch sank on the Buriganga River near Dhaka's Shyambazar following a collision with another vessel on Monday. Photo: Mahmud Zaman Ovi

Morning Bird was carrying more than 50 passengers and some of them swam ashore. The other passengers remained trapped inside the vessel.

Divers from the fire service subsequently arrived on the scene and began the rescue operation together with Navy and Coast Guard personnel.

The rescuers recovered 30 bodies from the Buriganga River, including three children, eight women and 19 men, until Monday afternoon. Two more passengers were declared dead after they were taken to hospital.

But the authorities could not immediately identify the dead nor confirm the number of missing passengers.

Later, some locals rescued two more passengers and rushed them to Mitford Hospital where the doctors pronounced them dead, according to Dhaka district's Superintendent of Police Maruf Hossain Sarder.

Divers from the fire service together with Navy and Coast Guard personnel conducted a rescue operation after a launch sank on the Buriganga River following a collision with another vessel near Dhaka's Shyambazar on Monday. Photo: Mahmud Zaman Ovi

Divers from the fire service together with Navy and Coast Guard personnel conducted a rescue operation after a launch sank on the Buriganga River following a collision with another vessel near Dhaka's Shyambazar on Monday. Photo: Mahmud Zaman Ovi

Witnesses said the Mayuri-2 was travelling backwards as it prepared to dock at Sadarghat's terminal for Chandpur after unloading passengers at the Lalkuthi terminal when the vessel crashed into the Morning Bird, which had sailed behind it.

Director-General of the Fire Service Brig-Gen Sazzad Hussain said the vessel lay overturned at the bottom of the river near the area of the collision, making it difficult for divers to enter the sunken launch to look for more bodies.

After the disaster struck, scores of people gathered at the launch terminal to look for their loved ones. Among the bodies recovered by rescuers, Sumon Talukder, an executive at Jamuna Bank's Islampur branch, was identified by his older brother Nayan Talukder.

Sumon, a resident of Munshiganj's Mirkadim and father-of-one, would usually commute to his office in Islampur on a launch, said Nayan.

As ever, he had boarded a launch to travel to Dhaka around 7:30 am on Monday. Nayan called his brother on his mobile phone after news of the tragedy began circulating but it was switched off. He subsequently rushed to the launch terminal and found that his worst fears had come true.

Commodore Golam Sadeq, chairman of the Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Authority (BIWTA), who was present at the scene in the morning, told reporters that the accident was down to the negligence of the crew of both launches.

But after reviewing footage of the disaster, State Minister for Shipping Khalid Mahmud Chowdhury said the collision was "not an accident". 

"I feel that this was planned. This was not an accident but murder."

The state minister also announced that the government will provide Tk 150,000 each to the families of the dead.

Aside from that, the families will also receive Tk 10,000 immediately to bear the costs of burying their loved ones, Khalid told bdnews24.com during a visit to the scene of the disaster.

A seven-strong panel, headed by a joint secretary to the shipping ministry, has been constituted to look into the incident. The other members include representatives of BUET, BIWTA, Department of Shipping and River Police.

BIWTA will also provide Tk 10,000 to each of the bereaved families, its Director Rafiqul Islam said. The authorities have also seized the Mayuri-2 launch and are preparing to take legal action in this regard, he added.