Bangladesh: Ferry Captain Charged With Murder

Bangladesh

Bangladesh ferry captain of the MV Pinak-6 and five others have been charged with murder after a second major ferry accident this year claimed the life of over 100 passengers. The ferry accidents were both caused by strong river currents, bad weather, and overcrowding of the vessels. The first incident happened on May 15, 2014 and another ferry capsized on Aug. 5, 2014. Authorities believed both incidents involved criminal negligence and conducted criminal investigations into both ferry accidents.

Bangladesh is a densely populated low lying land, with hundreds of rivers that wind through the country like roadways. Citizens often have no choice but to travel by waterway, especially through rural areas and every year there are accidents that kill dozens of people. The government has promised for years to make much needed changes, but there have been no improvements and as many as 95 percent of the ferries operating in the country do not meet the minimum safety code. Ships are often in disrepair, after years of not being adequately maintained.

The first major accident this year involved a ferry, named the MV Miraj-4, which went down on the Megna river, near Dhaka, the capital of Bangladesh, after it was caught in a storm. Only 25-30 passengers were able to get off the sinking ship and make it to shore. Survivors reported hearing screaming and crying from passengers that were stuck under the boats deck. When the passengers realized something was wrong and tried to get off the ship the captain told them to stay inside. Coincidentally, the captain was one of the survivors, but he

When the first ferry accident in Bangladesh occurred, officials reported that there were a couple dozen passengers missing, but they still needed to take a second look for a more accurate figure. Those numbers quickly rose after authorities spoke with surviving passengers and crew members. The government later reported that the ship was likely overcrowded and the ferry was likely carrying over 200 passengers when it sank.

A search and rescue mission began immediately after the ship sank, as people were believed to be alive in the bottom half of the sunken vessel. Oxygen was pumped into a “pocket” where living passengers were thought to be trapped, but after two days rescuers were unable to rescue any survivors. At that time efforts were focused on recovery, but the recovery mission was called off after just 40 of the missing bodies were found.

When the search was called off, families of the deceased, who had gathered on the banks of the river, were outraged and demanded that the government continue looking. Search efforts were continued and the vessel was raised, but only an additional 14 bodies were found. The total death toll stands at 54 nearly three months later, but scores more are still missing. The government of Bangladesh told the missing victims’ families that divers would search the water for bodies, but nothing has come of the search.

Another major ferry accident occurred a few days ago, on Aug. 5, 2014, when the ferry was caught in the middle of a river during a storm. The ferry was reportedly making a two hour trip down a river in central Bangladesh, when it was hit by a large wave, which caused the overcrowded vessel to capsize. The ferry is believed to have been carrying more than 200 passengers. Many of the travelers were returning to Dhaka after the Muslim festival Eid al-Fitr, when the incident happened.

The ferry was operating illegally, as the ship’s license had expired in April of 2014 and the operating license strictly prohibited the ship from carrying over 85 passengers. Authorities conducting the criminal investigation collected information from survivors and reports from the relatives of those who are missing. The information collected led authorities in Bangladesh to file murder charges for the captain and five others.

On Monday, thousands of family members had gathered at the port, where the ship was due to arrive, waiting for word on their loved ones and demanding answers. The chief administrator told the AFP, “We have listed 118 passengers as missing based on the claims from the relatives. It appears that the ferry was carrying more than 200 passengers.” He also told the AFP, “The ferry was the smallest of all ferries in this route, with a capacity of only 85 passengers it was heavily overcrowded.” Rescue workers were able to save 100 people from the river, but the ferry has not been found.

With a second Bangladeshi ferry accident and passengers still missing from the first there is tremendous of pressure on the government to make significant changes. The impoverished people often have no choice but to travel the waterways, which are like winding streets through the overpopulated land. Sweeping changes need to be made quickly to ensure the safety of the people.

The government of Bangladesh is taking a serious stand this time around, filing murder charges against six people connected with the Aug. 5, 2014 ferry incident. Those charged included the captain, ferry owner, and four crew members, all are said to have gone into hiding before authorities could apprehend them. The accused will have the opportunity to defend themselves, but if they do not prevail, they could be put the first people to be put to death in connection with a ferry accident in Bangladesh.

By Amy Gilmore

Sources:
NY Times
The Telegraph
Fox News
Aljazeera America

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