Search for bodies end leaving scores missing: Locals, relatives continue search on boats, trawlers

Locals in Mawa begin search for sunken ferry ML Pinak 6 on their own with indigenous technology on Sunday after the authorities pulled out all agencies but two survey vessels from operation. — Sony Ramany

Locals in Mawa begin search for sunken ferry ML Pinak 6 on their own with indigenous technology on Sunday after the authorities pulled out all agencies but two survey vessels from operation. — Sony Ramany

The authorities on Sunday withdrew most of the rescue teams, including navy, coast guard, BIWTA and fire service, from the MV Pinak-6 salvage operation, with two survey vessels staying back to zero in on the metallic object they have spotted on the riverbed. But locals and families of the missing passengers continued the search in Padma on boats and trawlers for bodies. The death toll from the ferry disaster remained at 46 as no more bodies were recovered on Sunday while the number of missing passengers was believed to exceed 120 though the Munshiganj district administration put the number at 61 saying there were some ‘fake claims’ in the previous list of missing people. After a five-day search, rescuers on Saturday spotted a metallic object on the riverbed of Padma about a kilometre downstream from Mawa terminal but they could not confirm until Sunday evening whether it was the ill-fated ferry. At a press conference on Sunday morning, Munshiganj deputy commissioner Saiful Hasan Badal announced the withdrawal of all rescue teams except Kandari 2 and Jarip 10 which would continue the operation to determine whether the objects were really of the sunken vessel. MV Pinak-6, a double-decker ferry having a capacity of carrying 80 people, sank in the Padma near Louhajang in Munshiganj last Monday with about 300 passengers on board, most of them returning to their workplaces after the Eid vacation. More than 100 passengers of the ferry, which was sailing to Mawa from Kawrakandi, swam ashore. ‘The rescues teams conducted an intense search in a large area spanning about 50 square kilometres with modern technology. But they could not trace the sunken vessel, except signals from a metallic object,’ the Munshiganj DC told the briefing at the roads and highways rest house at Mawa. He said the metallic object is about 16-17 metres in length – about the size of Pinak-6, according to New Age correspondent in Munshiganj. Survey vessels of Chittagong Port Authority, Kandari-2 and Jarip-10, will stay back in operation along with rescue vessels Rustam and Nirvik on standby for a possible salvage operation, said Saiful Hasan. The teams of divers will be on standby. The side-scan sonar of Kandari-2 has caught the image of the metallic object. Kandari-2 in-charge navy commander Manjurul Karim Chowdhury, also the chief hydrographer at the Chittagong Port, said an anchor was required to hook to the spotted metallic object so that divers could approach it with the help of the anchor in order to determine whether it was Pinak-6. ‘Strong currents in Padma still prevent divers from trying to reach the metallic object,’ he said. The navy commander said the divers had hooked an anchor to the object for one time but it was unhooked by strong currents just after six minutes. He said they were trying to hook an anchor to the object again. Bodies of the victims drifted downstream as far as 100 kilometres from the spot of the accident and rescuers believe the sunken vessel might also have drifted downstream due to strong currents. Until Saturday, 11 bodies were recovered from Bhola, 10 from Shariatpur, 11 from Barisal, five from Chandpur, five from Munshiganj and Noakhali and one each from Lakshmipur and Madaripur. Munshiganj DC said 27 bodies had been handed over to their families after identification until Friday. Accidents on waterways are common during holidays in particular in Bangladesh. Overloading and faulty construction are said to be the main reasons for the ferry accidents.

Source: New Age