Friday, March 16, 2012

Bangladesh wraps up rescue after sunken ferry salvaged, 112 confirmed dead

Mohammad Shahabuddin Khan, the district's police chief, told Xinhua that "the authorities concerned announced an end to the rescue operation at about 5:00 p.m. (local time) after the sunken ferry was salvaged."

He said, "81 missing bodies were recovered on Wednesday which took total death toll from the tragic ferry capsizal to 112."

The first phase of the rescue was suspended Tuesday night after the fire brigade and naval divers recovered 31 bodies.

Khan said about a dozen people still remained missing. "Police in collaboration with the villagers will continue their efforts for recovering the ill-fated passengers who were still missing," he said.

The district's administration chief, Azizul Alam, told Xinhua that "We've prepared a list of 16 missing people on receipt of information from their relatives."

But quoting the ill-fated passengers' relatives, local sources said the missing number might be a bit higher than what the officials estimated. "We've seen many missing passengers' relatives to await bodies even after the rescue operation ended," a loca mendia reporter, who preferred to be unnamed told Xinhua Wednesday evening from the accident scene.

He said many ill-fated passengers' relatives have lodged complaints to authorities, urging recovery of bodies which remained missing although the sunken ferry was dragged upon the river bank after hours of frantic efforts.

Khan had earlier said the ferry, carrying about 200 passengers on the Meghna River in Munshiganj, some 27 km southeast of capital Dhaka, sank waters about 70 feet deep at about 02:00 a.m. local time on Tuesday following a collision with a cargo ship carrying oil.

The ferry -- MV Shariatpur-1 -- capsized after a head-on collision with the oil carrying tanker in the mighty river Meghna, Khan said adding the cause of collision is not clear.

Three separate committees have already been formed to investigate the tragic ferry accident.

Hundreds of relatives and friends of the ill-fated passengers on Wednesday also gathered at the accident site to identify the dead or in the quest for missing persons.

Some of the relatives spent the whole night at a temporary shelter center set up on a river island adjacent to the accident scene while many flocked there in the morning. They were in a state of deep shock.

A large number of people, particularly women and children, of the ill-fated passengers wailed loudly at the time when the divers started to lift the sunken ferry. More heart-breaking moments came again and again as more bodies were lifted from waters.

Some survivors said most of them were sound asleep when the ferry was hit hard by the cargo ship. A man who survived the tragic accident told Xinhua Tuesday, "I was sleeping on the ferry deck. Suddenly I got up and found myself in waters. I've managed to swim ashore. But I don't know what happened to many others who were sleeping like me inside the ferry."

Ferry services in Bangladesh never maintain list of passengers and none can exactly say how many passengers a ferry carries.

Like many other Dhaka-bound ferries, the ill-fated water taxi was excessively overcrowded Tuesday as road and river communications between the capital city and rest of the country remained suspended after the authorities concerned tightened all modes of transportation over the last few days against the backdrop of a grand rally staged by main opposition party and its allies on Monday.

Boats and ferries are still commonly used as key means of transportation in Bangladesh which is criss-crossed by about 250 rivers. However, the vessels are often overloaded or badly maintained, and accidents are commonplace.

At least 33 bodies were recovered after a ferry capsized in Bangladesh's Brahmanbaria district, some 109 km northeast of capital Dhaka, in April last year.