Sunken ferry was 'taking on water since dawn', say survivors

Authorities said that the utility ferry capsized after a collision with a cargo ship. But survivors offered a differing account

Mahidul Islam MahiManikganj
Published : 17 Jan 2024, 07:57 AM
Updated : 17 Jan 2024, 07:57 AM

As rescue operations continue for the utility ferry that sank near the Paturia terminal in Manikganj, the focus is gradually shifting towards the cause of the incident.

Authorities said that the BIWTC-operated Rajanigandha-7 capsized on Wednesday after a collision with a small cargo ship amid dense fog on the Padma River.

However, survivors offered differing accounts. They say the vessel had been taking on water since dawn before eventually sinking.

"The ferry wasn’t hit by any cargo ship. Instead, water started seeping in from below, causing the ferry to sink," said Nazmul Islam, a truck owner who was on the vessel.

According to the shipping ministry, the vessel left the Daulatdia terminal for Paturia with nine trucks on board around 1 am but was stranded mid-river due to heavy fog. The ferry resumed its journey in the morning but was involved in the accident before it could dock at the jetty.

State Minister for Shipping Khalid Mahmud Chowdhury also attributed the capsize to a collision with a cargo vessel. However, Nazmul refuted the official narrative, saying water began leaking in around 4 am and the ferry started sinking by morning.

Kushtia native Nazmul, who was transporting goods to Chandpur, added that nearby boats, including a trawler, came to the rescue of those on the sinking ferry.

After it overturned, a part of the ferry was seen floating upside down for a while before it completely submerged.

Divers rescued six people from the scene, and there are no reported casualties, according to Talha Bin Jasim, an official from the Fire Service Central Media Cell.

However, the ferry's second driver, 39-year-old Humayun Kabir, remains missing.

The Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) said that a navy diving team is assisting the Fire Service in the search for the missing crew member.

Shahidul Islam, a truck worker who survived the incident, accused the ferry staff of negligence. "The ferry sank about 200 metres from the wharf due to rising water from below. The crew didn't inform the terminal authorities or anyone else. They are now claiming it sank after colliding with a cargo ship."

In response to these claims, Shah Khaled Nawaz, DGM of the BIWTC's Aricha office, said, “The information I have is that the ferry capsized after a collision with a cargo vessel. We will investigate the claims of water leaks.”

Jahangir Alam, a spokesman for the Ministry of Shipping, added that two BIWTA rescue vessels have been dispatched to the scene to retrieve the submerged ferry.

BIWTA Chairman Commodore Arif Ahmed Mostafa, along with senior officials, have also made their way to the location to oversee the rescue efforts.