40 people dead after fire breaks out aboard packed ferry in Bangladesh

Dhaka: A crowded three-storey ferry carrying around 800 passengers caught fire on the Sugandha River in southern Bangladesh early Friday, killing at least 40 people and injuring over 150 others, officials said, in the latest maritime tragedy to hit the country criss-crossed by rivers.

The fire broke out around 3:00 am (local time) on Friday in the engine room of the Barguna-bound MV Abhijan-10 launch that started a journey from Dhaka, police and fire service officials said, adding that scores of other passengers were missing.

Officials familiar with the rescue efforts said 40 people were killed in the blaze, including nine being drowned, but some private television channels, quoting officials, reported 41 deaths from the accident in southern Jhalakathi district, 250 kilometres from the capital Dhaka.

Officials said they were carrying out the autopsy of the 30 people at Jhalakathi's main government hospital ahead of handing them over to relatives.

We have assigned an official team to find out the casualty figure, the deputy commissioner of Barishal district told the private Samoy TV.

"The record suggests 310 listed passengers were travelling in the ferry, but we assume the actual number was much higher, junior minister for shipping Khaled Mahmud Chowdhury told reporters after he visited the accident site.

He said three separate investigations have been launched to find out the background and other details of the predawn accident.

Doctors at the Sher-e-Bangla Medical College Hospital in the neighbouring Barishal district said they were currently treating 70 people while fire service officials said some 50 more were being treated at other health facilities.

Health officials in Dhaka said a six-member expert doctors' team were sent to Barishal to join their colleagues in

treating patients with burn wounds.

The Coastguard, fire service and police launched a search campaign covering rivers in three downstream districts as the accident took place at the confluence of three rivers as a huge number of people crowded on the river banks and hospitals to find their relatives.

They wrapped up the rescue operation after sunset due to dense fog and darkness, saying they would restore the operation on Saturday morning.

"Most of the people were burnt to death or died due to breathing problems due to hot smoke as they were trapped inside the vessel. Many passengers jumped into the river but some of them could not swim ashore or be rescued, a fire service official said.

Another fire service official earlier said many passengers were asleep as the fire broke out, some died from inhaling smoke, some were burnt to death while some


Survivors said the passenger ferry was carrying nearly 800 people as it left Dhaka for Barguna in southern coastlines on Thursday evening.

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