At least 48 people, according to unofficial count, were killed in a launch accident in the River Padma in Manikganj on Sunday.
The Deputy Commi-ssioner of Manikganj told the Daily Observer last night that rescuers recovered 43 bodies from the river. However the rescue operation was going on when the DC said this.
The launch, MV Mostafa, carrying about 150 passengers capsized on its way to Daulatdia from Paturia after being hitby a fertilizer-laden cargo vessel, Nargis-1, in the middle of the river at around 11:15am.
Our Correspondent in Rajbari, Mosharraf Hossain, quoting Officer-in-Charge (OC) of Goalanda Police Station AKM Nasir Ullah, said of the bodies, two - Wasima Akhter, a teacher of Sher-e-Bangla Girls School in Rajbari, and one Ruma, 30, with her two children - were identified.
Deputy commissioners, superintendents of police, officials of Fire Service and other senior officers of the two districts rushed to the spot after the incident.
Meanwhile, three probe committees were formed by the Shipping Ministry and the Department of Shipping.
Divers recovered 25 bodies between 3:00pm and 6:00pm, said Shefatul Islam, Additional Deputy Commissioner (revenue) of Manikganj, from a control room set up at Paturia Ghat. About 50 to 60 passengers managed to swim ashore, he added.
Two fire fighting units from Manikganj and Ghior with the help of local people rescued a six-month-old baby girl from inside the sunken launch immediate after it capsized and took her to Uthali Upazila Health Complex where doctors declared her dead.
Commissioner of Ward-7 of Goalanda Municipality Kyam Shikder said he knew the infant and her name was Smrity, daughter of Faruque Sheikh of the area. Faruk along with his family members was returning home from Dhaka, he said.
Soon after the accident, Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Authority, Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Corporation and naval police jointly started a salvage operation and rescued at least 60 passengers, Paturia Navy Police Station In- Charge Abdul Muktadir said. Later, divers of Fire Service and Civil Defence joined the rescue operation.
The sunken launch has been located and tied to boats with ropes, he added. Zihad Miah, an officer of Fire Service Station in Manikganj, said that the capsized launch was lying 35 to 40 feet under water. BIWTA Rescue Vessel IT-389 was trying to bring the capsized launch ashore, he said and added that the police seized the cargo vessel Nargis and arrested its Master Iqbal and his assistant Shahidul.
One Bimal Chandra Mandal, who swam ashore, said that the launch capsized in the middle of the Padma River as the cargo vessel hit it from the left side and it sank within 15 minutes.
Three probe committees were formed to enquire into the accident. Of the probe committees, the committee headed by BIWTA Chairman Samsuddoha Khondaker was asked to submit its report by seven working days, said Shipping Minister Shajahan Khan.
The other committees, headed by Nur-ur Rahman, Joint Secretary of the Shipping Ministry and by Captain Mohammad Shajahan, nautical surveyor of the DoS, were asked to submit their reports within 15 working days.
The Minister announced Tk 100,000 as compensation for each deceased person in addition to Tk 20,000 in cash for burial expenses.