Many have seen on TV where motor launch Pinak-6 had rolled over and sunk in the Padma near Mawa yesterday. But locating the vessel under the water has become a daunting task.
Armed with just a sonar boat-side scanner of the navy, rescuers of the coastguard, fire service and navy last night and early today were still looking for the vessel, which they fear has drifted away significantly in the strong current.
Rain, choppy waters and a current of about three knots (5.5kmph) yesterday did not help their cause. The area is around 90 feet deep.
The Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Authority (BIWTA) dispatched two rescue vessels -- Nirbhik from Chandpur and Rustom from Narayanganj.
Rustom reached the spot around 9:30pm yesterday, over 10 hours after the accident, but could do nothing since the submerged vessel was not found. As of 2:00am today, Nirbhik was yet to get there.
The rescue job would not have been easy even if the 100-tonne launch had been found under water.
“ … It [rescue vessel] would face problems in pulling out the sunken vessel because those small vessels do not have any good hooking system to be hooked to the anchor of the rescue vessels,” said Prof Rafiqul Islam of the Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology (BUET).
In most cases, divers have to go down and tie up the sunken vessel and have it pulled up, he added.
“If those vessels were made following specific designs with airtight compartments, they would not have sunk even during a storm. At best, they would list to one side in the water,” he said.
The vessel sank within a minute of its going upside down.
On the sonar equipment, Mohammed Hossain, a director of BIWTA coordinating the rescue mission, said, “It is a machine that works like ultra-sonogram and it has the capacity to scan 200 metres around. But probably the underwater heavy current has pushed the sunken vessel elsewhere.”
The BIWTA still faces complications in rescue operations despite adding two powerful and modern rescue vessels -- Nirbhik and Pratyay -- to its fleet. It now has four vessels.
Nirbhik and Pratyay put together have the capacity to salvage vessels weighing 500 tonnes. They were bought from South Korea for Tk 350 crore.
The vessels in their first assignment took 44 hours to pull out the small vessel, Miraj-4, that went down in the Padma near Munshiganj in May.
Hamza and Rustom, each with a 60-tonne capacity, were bought from Germany in 1964 and Belgium in 1983.
Yesterday, first responders conducted their operations from a trawler that broke down in the middle of the Padma. Speedboats, which ferry passengers across the river, had to rescue the rescuers.
Around 1:30am today, the rescuers of fire service had searched for the launch from the spot it went down to around 5.5km downstream, Director (operations) Abdus Salam of fire service said.