• Monday, December 22, 2014

Freedom in the air

Anger grows over rescue failure

Death toll in Padma launch disaster reaches 36

Pankaj Karmakar, Wasim Bin Habib with Farhana Mirza
An uncle of Mim, in tears inside the vehicle carrying her body. The eighth grader had gone to her relative's in Faridpur from Gazipur to spend Eid holidays and she drowned on her way back when Pinak-6 went down. Her uncles said they had discouraged her from leaving in the Eid rush on that fateful day but Mim was adamant as she did not want to miss a single day of school. Photo: Rashed Shumon
An uncle of Mim, in tears inside the vehicle carrying her body. The eighth grader had gone to her relative's in Faridpur from Gazipur to spend Eid holidays and she drowned on her way back when Pinak-6 went down. Her uncles said they had discouraged her from leaving in the Eid rush on that fateful day but Mim was adamant as she did not want to miss a single day of school. Photo: Rashed Shumon

Grief has given way to anger at Mawa on the Padma river.

Four agonising days into the Pinak-6 launch disaster, family members of those missing are now accusing the government of putting in poor rescue efforts.

Mim
Mim

As of 12:30am today, 36 people are confirmed dead. Scores more missing are presumed dead. The sunken double-decker is yet to be traced.

Locals of Madaripur blocked Dhaka-Khulna highway for nearly three hours yesterday, demanding removal of Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Authority (BIWTA) chairman and other officials for what they said was negligence in duties.

Ferry and launch services were also disrupted, putting passengers in trouble.

Family members of the victims have been waiting on the banks of the Padma since Monday for what they could only hope are bodies of their loved ones.

"Can't I expect the body of my sister? The government did not do what it should have done from the beginning," said Sabuj in anger.

Hailing from Narayanganj, he rented a trawler and scoured the river himself for his sister's and nephew's bodies.

Another relative of a victim said, "What the government is doing is just an eyewash. We don't want any compensation. Please give us the bodies."

Some relatives of the victims have been spending the nights under a temporary shed of a market while some others made use of the benches of shops at Mawa ferry terminal.

Locals have been providing them with meals every day.

The relatives evinced no trust in the government's rescue efforts. They said they had been left in the dark about what it was doing. They alleged that the government had been insincere from the very beginning.

The district administration has prohibited fishing at Mawa since the accident. Some relatives of the victims said that if the fishermen had been allowed to work, it could have brought some results.

Meanwhile, Tugboat Kandari-2 joined the rescue operations early yesterday. But it could not locate the sunken vessel.

The official death toll, meanwhile, stands at 36 as 14 more dead bodies were recovered from different districts yesterday, according to the information centre set up by the district administration at Mawa.

Of the 36, the bodies of 17 were handed over to family members after identification. The information centre could not provide the names of the 14 recovered yesterday.

The corpses were kept at Pachchor Primary School in Shibchar in Madaripur.

Meanwhile, survey vessel Jarip-10 was on its way to Mawa, said the authorities. Another vessel, Kandari-7, which will assist Jarip-10 in the search for Pinak-6, was also on its way, they said.

The rescuers said they had been using sonar side scanner in a 50-kilomtre radius to look for Pinak-6.

They said a device called sub-bottom propeller was being used since yesterday morning. The propeller is submerged behind a tugboat and it could identify metal objects in the riverbed.

Captain Nazrul Islam of Bangladesh Navy said the propeller could detect metal even if it was covered under silt. "A cable connects the propeller with a laptop," he told The Daily Star.

On detection, the GPS system will be used to pinpoint the location of the vessel, he said.

He also said Jarip-10 was likely to arrive before midnight yesterday. The survey vessel has multi-beam sound scanner that can locate objects as deep as 250 feet underwater, he added.

BIWTA Chairman Shamsuddoha Khandakar said, "We are carrying out salvage operation using the latest technology. We are searching metre-by-metre to find the vessel. We are trying our best."

Pinak-6, on its way to Mawa from Kawrakandi, was carrying more than 200 passengers against a capacity of 85. It sank in the choppy waters amid strong winds at Mawa around 11:00am on Monday.

 

Published: 12:02 am Friday, August 08, 2014

Last modified: 9:15 pm Friday, August 08, 2014

TAGS: Mawa death toll Pinak-6 Padma river Anger grows failure presumed dead. Bangladesh

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