After being stranded for more than 12 hours, 1,165 passengers of a launch that got stuck in a hidden shoal in the Meghna river in Chandpur were rescued by police yesterday.
The Patuakhali-bound launch, MV Sattar Khan-1, which began its journey from Dhaka around 7:30pm on Friday, hit the shoal at Aktel Point in Haim Char upazila of Chandpur around 11:00pm, said Md Moniruzzaman, officer-in-charge of Haim Char Police Station.
He said he was informed about the launch by Shariatpur police around 8:00am.
After a one-hour frantic search, the police, local administration and Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Authority (BIWTA) officials located the vessel.
With help of local trawlers, the passengers were brought to the shore around noon, from where they were taken to Chandpur launch terminal by another launch named MV Rouf Rouf, the police official added.
The passengers were sent to Patuakhali by MV Anchol-2 around 4:30pm, said Mobarak Hossain, deputy director, BIWTA, in Chandpur.
"The stranded launch is yet to be salvaged as a rescue vessel, Agrabahok, has also got stuck at Haim Char," he said.
Mobarak added that legal action would be taken against the master of the launch for negligence of duty and carrying passengers beyond the capacity of the vessel.
Advocate Alamgir Hossain, former president of Patuakhali press club, who was on board the launch with his family, expressed his relief to our Patuakhali correspondent over the phone after the rescue operation.
"We were inside our cabin and thought some disaster must have happened when a huge jolt startled us on Friday night," he said.
Many of the passengers fell sick as they were starving since last night due to lack of food.
Rekha Rani, a passenger of the launch, said everyone was starving until people on the river shore provided them with food and water.
Meanwhile, Saiful Haque Khan, joint director of Water Transport Safety and Traffic, was suspended yesterday for negligence of duty.
Shamsuddoha Khan, chairman of BIWTA, said the launch was carrying 1,165 passengers against a capacity of 750, adding that it did not have any "life saving equipment".
He also said he received information about the launch not from his office or the launch company but from a secondary source, and arranged for another rescue launch, which was sent to the location from Dhaka.
Legal action would be taken against the master, supervisor and clerks of the launch, he added.
Earlier on August 4, another overcrowded launch capsized in the river Padma, claiming the lives of about 110 people. Among them, 62 people still remain missing.