Bangladesh Ferry: No Lifeboats or Jackets Onboard

Bangladesh

Bangladesh is currently in distress over a ferry accident that took place Monday. Over 200 passengers were aboard the ferry, which capsized on the Padma River in the Munshiganj district. Survivors of the accident say the ferry was overturned in a strong current midway through its journey. Survivor Khokon Mia reported that there were no life jackets or lifeboats onboard, leaving passengers of the ferry in a panic while awaiting help from Bangladesh rescue teams.

The vessel, known as the MV Pinak, came into complications 20 miles from Dhaka’s banks. One report stated that many aboard were making their return to the country after celebrating Eid, an important religious festival. Videos and pictures show the boat on its side, sinking into the river, as scores of mourning people line the shore to have their last looks.

Dozens of passengers were able to swim to shore while others awaited rescue. So far, there are at least two confirmed deaths and the dozens more that are missing are presumed dead. The occurrence of this tragedy is unfortunately a common one. Earlier this year on May 15, there was a similar incident that took the lives of at least 54 passengers traveling aboard a ferry in the same area. Just like Monday’s accident, passengers claimed that the ferry was overloaded.

Officials are said to have investigated the claims of survivors and looked further into possible design faults in the ferry. After two days of recovering bodies from the river, officials estimated that possibly 100 passengers were still missing. There was no definitive way of knowing how many passengers were aboard, since no count was taken. According to rescuers, many bodies were still trapped inside cabin rooms where people took shelter from the storm.

Sabuj, a survivor of the ferry accident in May, said that the captain ignored the advice of passengers who asked him to stay close to shore when signs of a storm began to increase. The captain instead chose to steer the ferry out into the water and brave the possible dangers that came with the storm. Sabuj was able to survive the accident by jumping overboard as the ship was sinking and swimming to shore with about 25 other survivors.

Every year, ferry accidents are responsible for numerous deaths in the country, but Bangladesh is not alone. South Korea has also had trouble with ferries. In April, fingers pointed towards an overlook of safety precautions so that cargo transport could be maximized on a South Korean vessel which sank. With no monitory methods in play, accidents like this will most likely continue. Low safety standards of ferries in Bangladesh allow passengers onboard vessels that have no lifeboats, life jackets, weight limits or head counts. These factors, as well as others like acts of nature, i.e. weather, can make a significant difference in the number of deaths that occur year after year.

Ferry travel is reported as being a necessity for many in the country. Rivers and streams are a faster mode of transport and cover far more distance in total than roads. The high daily usage of rivers makes it all the more imperative that no ferry in Bangladesh should leave port until it is outfitted with lifeboats, life jackets and any other safety measures that can lower risks for travelers onboard.

By Kamille Dawkins

Sources:

The Wall Street Journal
The New York Times
The New York Times
BBC News

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