A rescue vessel trying to pull the capsized launch MV Miraj-4 towards the shore of the Meghna in Munshiganj yesterday. Photo: Star
Hours over a day after MV Miraj-4 sank in the Meghna with around 200 people on board, the authorities concerned still cannot confirm how many people died and the rescuers are yet to get the vessel to shore.
Thirty-one bodies have been recovered so far and 28 of them have been identified.
The victims' relatives, enraged by the slow pace of the rescue operations by members of the Navy, Fire Service and Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Authority, held demonstrations on shore of the Meghna yesterday.
The BIWTA, which is leading the rescue, issued confusing statements on the work progress.
“Divers could not get the launch under control due to underwater trenches created by dredging,” said BIWTA Joint Director Zahirul Alam.
He passed the blame on divers' inefficiency.
“Divers have failed to find a way to pull the vessel close to the shore. They could not even tie up the vessel properly, making it more difficult to turn the vessel when it gets stuck in the underwater trenches.”
BIWTA Director Mohammad Hossain told reporters in the morning that the launch was stuck in an underwater trench and he hoped to have the vessel hauled ashore by late afternoon.
It took five hours to pull free the upside-down launch stuck in the trench.
Relatives of the victims who had been waiting for news of their loved ones, could see the vessel from the shore of Daulatpur in Gazaria of Munshiganj.
As of late last night, the rescuers could not say for sure how long it would take to get the vessel close to the shore.
The modern BIWTA rescue vessel Prattay has the capacity to recover vessels weighing 250 tonnes and the double-decker MV Miraj-4 weighs only 130 tonnes. Tug boats Durbar and Duronto are assisting Prattay as well, still the vessel refused to budge.
BIWTA Chairman Shamsuddoha Khandker told journalists about their plan to flip the launch right side up to allow divers to search for bodies.
He told journalists late last night that they were planning to remove luggage and cargo from inside the launch to lighten it so that it could be hauled ashore. He hoped to have the launch pulled ashore in the wee hours of today.
Meanwhile, in the heat of the summer and hungry with no food around, the relatives of the victims marched chanting slogans demanding the bodies of their loved ones.
A group of them even swooped on newsmen.
Those travelling on MV Miraj-4, which was heading for Shariatpur from Dhaka Thursday afternoon, were largely from Shariatpur's Naria and Sakhipur. Their relatives thronged the shore closest to the site of the accident.
Mohammad Khokon came from Ruhitpur of Keraniganj late in the evening of Thursday. His uncle and his four family members were on the launch.
He has received four bodies, his uncle's, his wife's, and their two children's, by yesterday afternoon. He has given up the hope of finding his aunt alive. He was waiting for her body.
“The harassment we are facing here is because of sheer negligence of the rescuers. I demand punishment to those responsible for keeping the launch in mid-river during a storm which is a regular phenomenon this time of the year.
“I want a probe. I want to know who were responsible for wiping out the entire family of my uncle,” he said.
This is the second launch capsize in two weeks.
Carrying passengers beyond the vessel's capacity, flawed design of vessels, carelessness of vessel operators, and the government's failure to monitor are widely regarded as reasons for frequent disasters.
The district administration of Munshiganj has decided to give Tk 20,000 to each of the families of a deceased.