27 dead in Barisal launch tragedy
Friday, 20 February 2009

Barisal, Feb 19 (bdnews24.com) – At least 27 bodies were recovered, and over 20 passengers were still missing, more than twelve hours after a launch capsized in the Kirtankhola river in Barisal Thursday.

The ML Happy, heading towards Patarhat from Barisal, capsized at around 6:30am after a sand-laden cargo vessel hit it at Beltala, some three kilometres out from the district down.

Some 50 passengers were initially reported missing based on estimates by BIWTA officials and police.

Barisal police assistant commissioner Hayatul Islam told bdnews24.com from the site that 27 bodies had been recovered up to 8.45pm.

"At least 23 passengers are still missing," he said.

BIWTA's Barisal deputy director Rafiqul Islam said rescue operations were called off around 8pm as rescuers were finding it hard to continue in the dark.

But police were still patrolling the accident site for bodies or survivors, said officials at the accident site.

The death toll was likely to rise, they said.

"The current is very strong," Islam said. "Some bodies that may have been freed as the launch was lifted have possibly floated away in the strong current."

When pressed about the exact number of passengers on board the sunken launch, Islam said the vessel's capacity was 95.

"But these launches are always seen to be carrying more than their capacity. By that, we are estimating there were more than 100 on board when it sank."

The sunken launch was lifted at around 5:15pm, with the bodies of three women, one child and three men inside it, Barisal metropolitan police commissioner M Akbar Ali said at the time.

The body of a dead woman, identified as Dipty Dey, 30, had been recovered from the river soon after the accident.

Another 13 bodies were recovered in the intervening hours. But their identities were yet to be confirmed, said officials.

Source: bdnews24.com

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