Eid holidaymakers heading for south-western and northern districts endured sufferings yesterday due to suspension of ferry services on a major route and delays in some train schedules.
People who took the Dhaka-Mawa Highway to go to south-western districts suffered the most as operation of ferries, launches, and speedboats on Shimulia-Kathalbari route remained halted for hours due to strong currents in the Padma river.
Bus terminals and railway stations in Dhaka were crowded with homebound people who were leaving the city to celebrate Eid-ul-Azha with their relatives on August 12.
However, more people are expected to leave the city today and the rush for home is likely to reach its peak two days before the Eid.
Although the three-day public holiday for the Eid will begin from Sunday, a large number of government and non-government staffers will leave Dhaka today, taking an advance leave for Wednesday, the only working day in next week.
Transport operators said people’s trips are supposed to be a little more comfortable this year than those of the last few years’ due to the long vacation. But they feared that rain, strong currents in rivers and the battered stretches of the Dhaka-Rajshahi and Dhaka-Bogura highways might cause sufferings to people.
Although Road Transport and Bridges Minister Obaidul Quader on Monday directed the authorities to complete the repair works of all dilapidated roads three days before Eid, many of the regional and district roads could not be repaired within the deadline.
A total of 565km roads and highways under the Roads and Highways Department (RHD) have been damaged by recent floods across the country. Of them, 107km are national highways, 51km regional highways and 405km district roads, according to data compiled by the RHD central control room till July 31.
Operation of vessels on Shimulia-Kathalbari route remained suspended since 10:00am yesterday due to strong currents in the Padma, leaving hundreds of vehicles stranded at the Shimulia ferry terminal.
Over 700 light and heavy vehicles, including around 50 buses, had been stranded at the Shimulia terminal since morning, said locals.
Kamal Hossain, employee of a private bank, along with his wife reached Shimulia around 9:00am on the way to Gopalganj.
“We could not board the last ferry that left the terminal around 10:00am as people who reached there before us embarked it. We waited at the terminal for around nine hours hoping that the ferry services would resume,” he said.
Kamal told this newspaper over the phone at 6:25pm that they were returning to Dhaka.
Ferry services on the route remained suspended till filling of this report at 7:30pm.
Earlier, ferry services on the route remained halted for six hours since midnight on Tuesday after the pontoons of Paturia terminals 1, 2 were displaced by rough waves.
The services resumed around 6:00am, but were suspended again around 10:00am.
Meanwhile, BIWTC officials at the Paturia ferry terminal in Manikganj said strong currents in the Padma were forcing ferries on Paturia-Daulatdia route to wait midway through the journey or take detours. Ferries were taking around 90 minutes to cross the river, around double the time required normally.
Zillur Rahman, assistant general manager of Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Corporation (BIWTC) at the Paturia terminal, said they were operating about 17 ferries, but were facing difficulties due to strong currents in the mighty river.
As the ferry services were disrupted, the queues of vehicles at the terminal were getting longer, he added.
WAIT AT KAMALAPUR STATION
In the capital, thousands of people thronged the Kamalapur Railway Station since last morning. The rush of passengers grew in the afternoon. Those who bought advance train tickets on July 29 (the first day of sale of advance tickets) left the city yesterday.
People bound for northern and western districts had to suffer delays as at least five trains ran behind schedule by 1-3 hours. Two other trains bound for Mymensingh and Kishoreganj were also delayed.
A total of 52 trains were scheduled to leave the station yesterday.
Monir Hossain, a private university student, said, “I collected a ticket of Silkcity Express after waiting at the counter for about 11 hours. The delayed schedule is now causing more sufferings to me.”
Asked about the reason for the delays, Aminul Hoque, station manager at the railway station, said holidaymakers usually take a long time to embark and disembark trains at their respective stations, resulting in such delays.
During previous Eid rush for home, railway officials had cited the same reason for delays in schedules.
Aminul, however, said damage to a coach of Kishoreganj Express caused the delay in its schedule.
ROAD TRIPS SMOOTH
Transport operators said although the conditions of Dhaka-Chattogram and Dhaka-Sylhet Highways are better, the speed of vehicles bound for northern districts slowed down after crossing the Bangabandhu Bridge.
They said vehicles had to be driven slowly due to a dilapidated bridge in Sirajganj’s Nalka area and the repair work of stretches of Hatikumrul-Rajshahi and Hatikumrul-Bogura roads.
Rafiul Islam, employee at a private company, said it took him two and a half hours to reach Bangabandhu Bridge from the capital (109km), but he had to spend three hours and 10 minutes to reach his destination Sherpur of Bogura from the Bangabandhu Bridge (66km).
Meanwhile, the BIWTC yesterday published a cautionary notice in different newspapers requesting people and transport operators to contact officials at ferry terminals before heading there as ferry services on some routes were being disrupted due to strong currents and submerged shoals in rivers.
Our Munshiganj correspondent Farhana Mirza contributed to this report.