At least 25 people went missing after two launches fastened to a pontoon in the Padma capsized due to river erosion in Shariatpur's Nariya yesterday morning.
MV Mahanagar was operating on Shariatpur-Dhaka route, and Nariya-2 between Shariatpur and Narayanganj, and they were at Chairman Launch Terminal.
MV Mouchak-2, which was also at the terminal, drifted away and was found half submerged near a char.
Six launches were anchored at the terminal when the incident happened around 5:00am. Rescue operation could not be conducted due to bad weather.
Visiting the spot, Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Authority (BIWTA) Chairman Commodore Mozammel Haque said 11 divers of navy could not dive into the river due to strong currents. Two teams of firefighters from Faridpur and Shariatpur were also kept ready at the spot for the rescue operation, he said.
All the preparations for the operation were taken, and it would start when the situation improved, the BIWTA chairman added.
Rescue Ship, Prottoy, reached the spot, but could not go for the operation due to inclement weather, he added.
The office of Shariatpur deputy commissioner prepared a list of 16 missing people, most of whom are staffers of the launches.
Soon after the launches capsized, three people were rescued. They are: Sarwar, a cabin boy of launch Sureshwar-2, Mohammad Ali, a passenger, and Noor Islam, a cook of a launch. The three were admitted to Mulfatganj Health Complex.
Yesterday's erosion devoured 20 percent of the river bank in the terminal area. The erosion also damaged 30 percent more area of the river bank in the last one week.
Sohag Mia, a witness, said, "The launches capsized in front of my eyes. There were 50-60 people in the three launches."
Mohamed Ali, a passenger of Mouchak-2 launch, said although he managed to get to the shore, his wife, mother-in-law and five-day-old daughter went missing. They had come from Dhaka.
Motahar Hossain, the lessee of the launch terminal, said the pontoon was separated from the terminal due to the erosion.
Meanwhile, the shipping ministry, the shipping department and the BIWTA have formed separate committees to investigate yesterday's incident. The BIWTA has asked its probe committee to submit the report within 24 hours.