At least 12 people were killed and many remain missing after a launch capsized yesterday morning in the Meghna river at Gazaria upazila of Munshiganj.
The 17.08-metre ML Sarash was heading for Machuakhali in Matlab of Chandpur from Narayanganj but it was hit in the stern by an unregistered cargo vessel around 7:45am near Ismanir Char causing it to sink.
Survivor Shafiqul Islam said, “I was walking on the roof of the launch and suddenly, I saw the speedy cargo vessel hit it. The launch could not maintain balance and sank within one or two minutes.”
Rescuers recovered the bodies of Mayna, 30, and Prince, 2, of Matlab before night fall. But Abdus Shaheed, station officer of Fire Service and Civil Defence headquarters, told The Daily Star early today that they had recovered the bodies of three men, two women, and five children.
The 10 bodies were recovered from the launch between 1:30am and 2:30am when this report was filed.
Witnesses said some passengers managed to swim ashore while some were picked up by nearby trawlers when the vessel sank.
Talking to The Daily Star, a trawler captain Yusuf Miah said he was nearby when the launch sank. His trawler along with another pulled at least 28 people out of the water.
The rescue operation started around 10:00am even though rescue vessel MV Rustom reached the spot later, around 11:30am.
Around 100 divers were taking part in the rescue operation. They had located the vessel under water around 2:00pm and were able to pull the vessel closer to the shore early today.
Hundreds of people thronged the spot and were looking for their near and dear ones using boats and trawlers all day long yesterday.
Some survivors claimed that there were around 60 to 70 people on board the vessel but officials of Bangladesh Inland Water Transport and Bangladesh Inland Waterways (passenger carrier's) Association say that there were around 30 to 35 passengers.
Superintendent of Police of Munshiganj said the exact number of people missing could not be ascertained. The policeman said around 30 people were thought to be missing.
However, BIWTA officials claimed that eight to 10 people were missing.
Officials of Department of Shipping said the cargo vessel MV Firoza Farzana, which hit the launch, was not registered and that law enforcers had seized it.
The shipping ministry has formed a four-member committee to investigate the incident and submit a report to the ministry by five working days.
Pankaj Karmakar, Farhana Mirza, and Shaheen Mollah contributed to this report.