Families mourn loved ones as Panchagarh boat disaster death toll rises to 69

With three people still missing, Panchagarh’s Boda and nearby areas prepare for a sad Durga Puja

Panchagarh Correspondentbdnews24.com
Published : 28 Sept 2022, 08:30 PM
Updated : 28 Sept 2022, 08:30 PM

Another body has been found on the fourth day of rescue efforts after a boat packed with around 150 people sank in the Korotoa River in Panchagarh's Boda Upazila amid mourning by the shocked survivors and families.

Panchagarh Additional District Magistrate Dipankar Roy said the body of a college student was recovered from Boda's Aulia Ghat on Wednesday.

The death toll in the disaster has now risen to 69, while three people are still unaccounted-for, according to the district administration.

The latest victim was identified as Himalaya Chandra Roy, 28, a resident of Khalpara of Maidandighi Union.

He passed his bachelor's degree from Pathraj Government College in Boda and was a candidate for the post-graduate final examination in the zoology department of Dinajpur Government College.

He got married a month and a half ago. His wife Bonna, who was identified with a single name, was admitted to a hospital after surviving the boat capsize.

Md Zahurul Islam, the deputy commissioner of Panchagarh district, said a team to investigate the accident was given three more days to finish its job.

On Sunday, the boat was ferrying Hindu devotees to a temple on the occasion of Mahalaya ahead of Durga Puja when the disaster struck.

Witnesses reported that about 150 people were on the boat at the time of the accident. Some managed to swim ashore, but many others went missing. Locals rushed to the aid of the victims, taking boats out to search for them. Police and fire service personnel joined in afterwards.

The Korotoa River, which flows down from the foothills of the Himalayas, is not particularly deep, nor is the current remarkably strong. However, two consecutive days of rain and downstream flow have swelled the river, making things difficult for rescue workers.

MOTHER RETURNS, DAUGHTERS DON’T

Many other survivors lost their family members in the accident. One of them, Chhanda Rani Roy, lost her daughters Bhumika Roy and Brishti Roy.

Chhanda and her husband Deepak Chandra Roy are now speechless as the tragedy dampened the Durga Puja festivities.

Bhumika was a ninth-grader at Panchagarh Government Girls' High School, while Brishti was studying in class II at the local Sananda Kindergarten. A resident of College Para of Boda Upazila Sadar, their father is a science teacher at Dhanipara Gaighata Girls High school in Upazila and their mother is a housewife.

A day after the accident, members of the Fire Service and Civil Defence recovered the body of Brishti on Monday and the body of Bhumika on Tuesday.

At their home, Chhanda sat silently. She was lamenting sometimes, uttering the names of the two sisters. Neighbours and relatives who have come to console them were also in tears.

“On Sunday morning, before going to the temple, Bhumika told me ‘father, we are going to the Mahalaya festival with mother. We’ll be back soon. If we are late to return, please eat yourself, mother has cooked for you.’ I said, ‘Be careful, come back soon.’," said Deepak.

“Why did God take the two girls instead of me? How shall I survive without my two daughters? God, please take me too,” lamented Chhanda.

Shahidul Islam, a teacher at Bhumika's school, came home after receiving the news of the recovery of the body. He said Bhumika was quite brilliant. “I can't imagine losing her like this.”

Their neighbour, a retired college teacher Abdur Rashid, said: "We used to see the girls every morning, the elder one used to address me as uncle very respectfully. They grew up in my arms.”

“None of us knows how to console their parents. There might be a bridge constructed at Aulia Ghat someday, but these lives full of potential will never be back.”

Another neighbour, Bipin Chandra, said: "Goddess Durga has taken everything this time. Maybe we'll be able to worship somehow. There will be a festival, but it will be a mourning festival for all.

“A festival of loss.”

Toufique Imrose Khalidi
Editor-in-Chief and Publisher