Crossing the Padma was sometimes a matter of life and death. No more

Seminary teacher Yunus Ali Sardar in Madaripur’s Kalkini has been searching for his brother’s body for the last 18 years.

Masum Billahand Meherun Naher Meghla, from Padma Bridge areabdnews24.com
Published : 24 June 2022, 08:03 PM
Updated : 24 June 2022, 08:17 PM

Back on Jul 29, 2004, Khalilur Rahman had gone missing when a speedboat capsized in the river Padma, along with 10 other people on board.

Only one person survived the accident, a man named Abdul Kuddus, who later described how the boat sank.

For the next six months, whenever Yunus and the family heard about an unidentified body surfacing in other districts like Chandpur, Shariatpur or even Bhola, they rushed to areas to find out if somehow Khalilur’s body turned up or not.

Out of desperation, and to some extent denial, the family even published a missing person’s report in newspapers.

The newspaper article even led Yunus and the family to jail in Barishal, where they located a prisoner who was spitting image of Khalilur, but not him.

There are thousands of families like Yunus’s who had lost their loved ones in the Padma and the completion of Padma Bridge project not only brought out some painful memories for them but also instilled some hopes that no family will have to experience the pain they endured.

“After [the accident], I've been in trauma for ages. Even a couple of months ago, when I had to cross the river [Padma] by speedboat, I had a panic attack,” he said.

The bodies of victims are kept on the bank of the Padma river in Madaripur’s Shibchar after a collision between a speedboat and a cargo vessel left at least 26 people dead on Monday, May 3, 2021.

THE UNFORGIVABLE PADMA

Death on the Padma while travelling by boat had become one of the most common phenomena in Bangladesh.

In recent memory, at least 26 people were killed when another moving speedboat crashed onto an anchored ship in Madaripur’s Kathalbari water terminal area on May 3 last year.

The most horrible one took place on Aug 4, 2014, when at least 49 people were killed and 50 others went missing as a launch named Pinak-6 capsized in the river.

Kohinoor Rahman from Madaripur’s Shibchar lost her brother, sister-in-law, and a nephew and niece in that incident.

Kohinoor's brother, Mizanur Rahman, owner of a garments factory in Mirpur, was travelling back to Dhaka after spending the Eid holidays with his family.

The preparations for the opening of the bridge made Kohinur remember her brother and his family.

“I'd never have to carry such a life-long pain if the bridge was there at the time,” she said.

“At least the bridge is about to be opened. Perhaps some of the pain will dissipate. Most importantly, movement will become easy.”

Schoolboy Titas Ghosh died in an ambulance after a delay in boarding the ferry in July 2019

MOVING AILING PATIENTS IS NO LONGER A CHALLENGE

Ambulance drivers on both sides of the river are real witnesses to how people have suffered for ages to transport their ailing relatives to a clinic or hospital on the other side of the river.

Mosharraf Hossain from Shariatpur’s Naria Upazila has been working as an ambulance driver for the last 30 years.

“I don’t even remember how many times I've seen someone inside the ambulance dying while waiting to cross the river." he said. "The delay in crossing the river cost numerous lives."

Ambulances usually get privileges ahead of other vehicles to board the ferries. But the main issue was the availability of the ferries.

“With the opening of the bridge, we never have to wait for ferries anymore,” Mosharraf said. The seasoned ambulance driver, however, urged the government to reduce the tolls for ambulances to cross the bridge.

The toll for crossing ambulances has been fixed at Tk 1,300.

“I do some pro bono driving for people in financial hardship. But the massive toll might make it harder for me to provide the same services for people in need,” he said.

[Writing in English by Adil Mahmood, editing by Biswadip Das]

Toufique Imrose Khalidi
Editor-in-Chief and Publisher