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Overcrowded Passenger Ferry Sinks in Bangladesh; 2 Dead, More Than 100 Missing

Bangladeshi rescue workers search the waters where an overloaded ferry capsized in the Padma River in Munshiganj, some 30 kilometres (20 miles) south of the capital Dhaka. Image by Fahad Kaizer. Copyright Demotix (4/8/2014)

Bangladeshi rescue workers search the waters where an overloaded ferry capsized in the Padma River in Munshiganj, 30 km south of capital Dhaka. Image by Fahad Kaizer. Copyright Demotix (4/8/2014)

A passenger ferry capsized in Padma river en route to Mawa in Bangladesh, some 30 kilometres south of the capital Dhaka. Strong currents led to the accident around 11 a.m. Bangladesh time on Monday. The vessel was over capacity at the time with at least 250 people on board.

Efforts are ongoing to rescue the passengers from the river. At least two people have died, and more than 100 are reported missing according to latest reports.

The moment the ferry capsized was captured by an unknown person on a mobile phone from a nearby vessel. The video was uploaded to YouTube and Facebook by a number of users like RisingBD, and it went viral.

The rescue operations are being hampered due to strong currents and big waves in the Padma river. The rescuers are yet to identify the place underwater where the ferry submerged.

Bangladesh has been struck with these kinds of repeated tragedies during monsoon season in recent years. The reason includes poor design and quality control of as many as 10,000 vessels plying in the country and overloading of passengers, especially during festival (Eid) time.

Diaspora Blogger Haseeb Mahmud reacted cynically on Facebook after hearing about the disaster:

লঞ্চ ডুবি হইছে। শত শত লোক ডুবে মারার খবর কিছুক্ষণের মধ্যেই আসতে শুরু করবে।

যেটা হবে,
- সীমিত সম্পদ নিয়ে একটা উদ্ধার অভিযান
- ফেইসবুকে ঈদ পরবর্তি নতুন ইস্যু। স্ট্যাটাস, ইভেন্ট, ফান্ড কালেকশন।
- প্রচুর ক্যামেরা সহযোগে শাহবাগে মানববন্ধন

যেটা হবে না,
- ব্যাটারি রিক্সা থেকে শুরু করে বিমান পর্যন্ত যানবাহনের একটা কার্যকর কন্ট্রোলিং বা মান নিয়ন্ত্রন সিস্টেম গড়ে তোলা। এবং এই সিস্টেম যাতে গড়ে ওঠে সেটার জন্য একটা দীর্ঘমেয়াদি নাগরিক আন্দোলন (এঞ্জিওদের ফান্ড কালেকশন দৌঁড়ঝাপ বা বছরে একটা সংবাদ সম্মেলনকে আন্দোলন বলা হচ্ছে না এখানে) চালিয়ে যাওয়া।
- বিভিন্ন কাজে হাজার হাজার কোটি টাকার গল্প কদিন পর পর শোনা গেলেও যাত্রাপথের নিরাপত্তা বাড়ানোর জন্য কোন টেকাটুকা বরাদ্দের খবর পাওয়া যাবে না।
- মৃতদের বহু লাশ খুঁজে পাওয়া যাবে না। জানাও যাবে না তারা কে ছিলো, তাদের নাম কী।
- এতোগুলো মৃত্যুর জন্য দায়ী ব্যক্তিদের কোন বিচার হবে না।

A ferry has sunk. We will soon hear the news of the deaths of more than hundreds of people.

What will happen:

- A rescue effort with limited resources
- A new issue to post about on Facebook after the Eid holidays. Statuses, events, fund collection.
- Human chain in front of media cameras in Shahbag

What will not happen:

- Build a proper quality control mechanism for the vessels and a controllable traffic system. A long-term citizen movement is required to achieve this system (not the usual sporadic press conferences or fund collection by NGOs).
- No extra budget allocation will be made to increase safety in inland water travel.
- A lot of the bodies will never be found. Worse, we will never know who they were, not even their names.
- No one will be prosecuted for negligence or be deemed responsible

Bangladeshi onlookers gather near the scene where an overloaded ferry capsized in the Padma river in Munshiganj

Bangladeshi onlookers gather near the scene where an overloaded ferry capsized in the Padma river in Munshiganj. Image by Fahad Kaizer. Copyright Demotix (4/8/2014)

Twitter user À Muse Dë Erato accused local TV channels of airing the launch capsize video over and over for increased viewership:

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