At least 37 dead in Bangladesh ferry fire

At least 37 dead in Bangladesh ferry fire

December 24, 2021

At least 37 dead in Bangladesh ferry blaze: Some desperate passengers drown after leaping from floating inferno on overloaded boat carrying 500 people

  • At least 37 died after overcrowded night ferry caught fire early on Friday morning near Jhalokathi, Bangladesh
  • Police chief said they had recovered 37 bodies but that they expected the death toll from the tragedy to rise
  • Vessel have over 500 passengers, many going home from the capital, despite having an capacity of only 310 
  • It is thought the blaze started in the engine room around 3am and quickly ripped through overcrowded ferry

At least 37 people have died after an overcrowded night ferry caught fire in Bangladesh in the early hours of Friday, police said, as terrified passengers leaped overboard to escape the blaze.

The blaze was believed to have originated in the engine room and ripped through the ferry, which was carrying at least 500 people, many of who were returning home from the capital Dhaka, despite having an official capacity of only 310.  

‘We have recovered 37 bodies. The death toll may rise. Most died from the fire and a few by drowning after many people jumped into the river,’ local police chief Moinul Islam told AFP.

‘We have sent some 100 people with burn injuries to hospitals in Barisal,’ he said 

The latest maritime tragedy to hit the impoverished low-lying nation happened in the early hours in a river near Jhalokathi, 250km south of Dhaka.

At least 37 people have died after an overcrowded night ferry caught fire in Bangladesh in the early hours of Friday, police said, as terrified passengers leaped overboard to escape the blaze 

The blaze was believed to have originated in the engine room and ripped through the ferry, which was carrying at least 500 people, many of who were returning home from the capital Dhaka, despite having an official capacity of only 310 

Witnesses said the fire originated in the overcrowded ferry’s engine room around 3am local time and quickly spread, reducing the boat to a burnt out shell

A girl rescued from the ferry fire in the early hours of Friday morning gets treated at a government medical hospital, in Barishal, Bangladesh 

Survivors said they saw a small fire in the engine room as soon as the packed ferry set off from the Sadarghat river station 

Witnesses said the fire originated at around 3am local time and quickly spread.

‘We were sleeping on a mat on the ground floor deck. All the passengers were sleeping. My nine-year-old grandson, Nayeem, was with me, he jumped into the river. I don’t know what happened to him,’ said an elderly grandmother.

Other survivors said they saw a small fire in the engine room as soon as the packed ferry set off from the Sadarghat river station in Dhaka at 9pm on Thursday.

‘A lot of people ran for safety as the fire spread. A lot of people could not get out of their cabins where they were sleeping. Many jumped into the river,’ said another survivor at Barisal Medical College Hospital.

Johar Ali, the local district administrator, said rescuers arrived at the scene within an hour after the fire broke out and rushed the injured to nearby hospitals.

‘We spoke to passengers. And they said there were between 500 and 700 passengers,’ he told AFP.

‘The fire went on for four or five hours before it was doused. The entire [ferry] has been gutted. But they managed to bring it to the shore,’ Ali said.

Local television showed images of burnt motorcycles and gutted cabins inside the boat.

Survivors of a ferry inferno in Jhalokathi, 250km south of Dhaka, get treated at a government medical hospital, in Barishal, Bangladesh

An injured man in a pain as he receives treatment at a government medical hospital in Barishal, after surviving a blaze that ripped through an overcrowded ferry on Friday morning 

‘We have recovered 37 bodies. The death toll may rise. Most died from the fire and a few by drowning after many people jumped into the river,’ local police chief Moinul Islam said

Firefighters and coast guards shift body bags of victims after a passenger ferry caught fire near the southern rural town of Jhalakathi early on Friday morning

The latest maritime tragedy to hit the impoverished low-lying nation happened in the early hours in a river near Jhalokathi, 250km south of Dhaka 

A relative of a ferry fire victim wails at a government medical hospital, in Barishal, Bangladesh, after a blaze killed at least 37 people on Friday morning

A man consoles his relative who cannot find his five-year-old son who was traveling on a ferry that caught fire outside Dhaka on Friday morning

Shell-shocked survivors and their relatives crowded the shore as fire service and coast guard divers scoured the muddy waters.

The accident was the latest in a string of similar incidents in the delta country crisscrossed by rivers.

Experts in the South Asian nation of 170 million people blame poor maintenance, lax safety standards at shipyards and overcrowding.

In August at least 21 people were killed when a boat packed with passengers and a sand-laden cargo ship collided. In April and May, 54 were killed in two separate accidents.

In June last year, a ferry sank in Dhaka after it was hit from behind by another ferry, killing at least 32 people. In February 2015, at least 78 people died when an overcrowded ship collided with a cargo vessel.

Fires are also a regular source of tragedy. In July, 52 people perished in a blaze in a food and beverage factory in Rupganj, an industrial town outside Dhaka.

And at least 70 people died in February 2019 when fire tore through Dhaka apartments where chemicals were illegally stored.

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