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Mid river inferno

Published : Sunday, 26 December, 2021 at 12:00 AM  Count : 771

Another tragic waterway disaster occurred on Friday. The devastating fire accident left at least 40 people dead and scores injured. The incident took place at the early hour of Friday while the launch was--in Charkathi area of Jhalakathi Sadar upazila--on its way to Barguna from Dhaka. The vessel Abhijan-10 was completely packed with around 1,000 people--mostly hoping to spend the weekend with their loved ones. The devastating fire broke out from the canteen and engine room and continued for hours. Within five to 10 minutes, the flames engulfed the entire vessel.

Reportedly, the engine of MV Abhijan-10 developed problems a few hours after it left Dhaka for Barguna around 6:00pm on Thursday. While the passengers noticed the engine was behaving erroneously the staffers of the launch tried to fix it, but kept the vessel going. Clearly, the staffers of the launch neglected the issue and were inefficient to tackle the situation since they jumped off for safety, instead of putting effort to take the launch ashore. At last, 15 firefighting units brought the fire under control at 5:20am. It has been suspected that the death toll may rise.

Nowadays, we have become almost accustomed to waterway disasters, especially during Eid. But this accident is very unusual at this time of the year. This incident is a clear indication that, similar to our traffic rules, navigation rules are also not followed in our waterways.

Another point to be noted, there are allegations that many staffs are not properly trained. This visible chaotic situation is clearly hinting at the gross mismanagement in waterways traffic systems.

Now, the question arises what are the BIWTA authorities doing? Aren't they responsible for the accidents? Why are there no stringent rules for ensuring the safety of a vessel? Could this disaster not be avoidable?

The facts of negligence of the launch owners, drivers and the lack of proper monitoring for preventing accidents cannot be denied. Most importantly, be it a launch, steamer or engine boat, it is time to bring all captains, vessel operators and maintainance staffs under the scanner and verify whether they are properly trained to operate their vessels or not.

Dozens of passengers with severe burns are undergoing treatment at different hospitals. We expect that the authority will give proper attention to safety and maintainance of vessels, navigating and traffic rules which would be stringently followed by the staffs. Thousands of lives have been lost to disasters in the waterways. We feel the necessity to stop these careless tragedies, happening every year more than ever before.

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Editor : Iqbal Sobhan Chowdhury
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