At least 37 people died after a loaded yacht caught fire in southern Bangladesh on Friday, police said, in the latest maritime tragedy to hit the poor low-lying country.
The incident took place in the early hours near the southern rural town of Jhalokathi, 250 km south of the capital Dhaka. There were about 500 people on board the ship.
“The three-storey Obizan 10 caught fire in the middle of the river. We have recovered 37 bodies. The death toll may rise. Moinul Islam, the local police chief, said, “Most died of fire and some drowned after jumping into the river.” AFP,
Islam said the fire was believed to have started in the engine room and then ripped through a boat full of people returning home from Dhaka.
“We have sent around 100 people to hospitals in Barisal, who have suffered burns,” he said.
Eyewitnesses said that the fire started around 3 am and spread rapidly.
“We were sleeping on a mat on the ground floor deck. All the passengers were sleeping. My nine year old grandson Naeem was with me, he jumped in the river. I don’t know what happened to her,” said an old grandmother.
Other survivors said they noticed a small fire in the engine room as the packed ferry left Dhaka’s Sadarghat river station at 9 pm on Thursday.
“A lot of people ran to safety as the fire spread. Many people could not get out of their cabins where they were sleeping. Many people jumped into the river,” said another survivor at Barisal Medical College Hospital.
Local district administrator Johar Ali said rescue workers arrived at the scene within an hour of the fire and took the injured to nearby hospitals.
“We spoke to the passengers. And they said there were 500 to 700 passengers,” he told AFP,
“The fire continued for four or five hours before the fire was brought under control. whole [ferry] has been consumed. But they managed to get it over the edge,” Ali said.
Local television showed pictures of burnt motorcycles and burnt cabins inside the boat.
Shell-shocked survivors and their relatives crowded the shore as fire service and Coast Guard divers filtered the muddy waters.
series of similar events
The accident was the latest in a series of similar incidents in the delta country surrounded by rivers.
Experts in the South Asian nation of 170 million people blame poor maintenance, lack of safety standards at shipyards and overcrowding.
Fire is also a regular source of tragedy. In July, 52 people killed A fire broke out at a food and beverage factory in Roopganj, an industrial town outside Dhaka.
At least 70 people died in February 2019 when a fire broke out in a Dhaka apartment where chemicals were illegally stored.
In August, a boat full of passengers and a cargo ship loaded with sand killed at least 21 people crashed into the lake in eastern Bangladesh.
The boat was reportedly carrying around 60 passengers when the steel bow of the cargo ship rammed into another vessel near Bijoynagar town.
Divers had to dig out more bodies in the muddy muddy waters after the steel tip of the cargo ship and the boat collided, causing the passenger ship to capsize.
54 people died in two separate accidents in April and May.
Ships transporting sand sit low in the water and can be difficult to see in choppy conditions, especially in poor light.
In June last year, a yacht in Dhaka sank after colliding with another yacht from behind, killing at least 32 people,
In February 2015, at least 78 people were killed when an overcrowded ship collided with a cargo ship.