Authorities call off salvage operation

The government, administration and the public have done everything possible

  • Locals near the Mawa launch terminal continued their efforts at finding the capsized Pinak 6 launch by using traditional method of dragging a heavy object at the bottom of the river. Although the locals suspected of finally finding the location of the sunken vessel on Sunday, they called off their search operation yesterday
    Photo- Mehedi Hasan

The authorities yesterday called off the eight-day operation in search of Pinak 6 that sank in the Padma with 300 passengers, after having failed to even locate the position of the launch.

Saiful Hasan Badal, deputy commissioner (DC) of Munshiganj, said: “Considering the reality, the river and weather conditions, we believe there is no scope of continuing the operation. No positive outcome is possible if we continue the search.”

He also said: “At present, Padma wave is 5-6 nautical miles per hour strong and cautionary signal three is on for all sea stations; it is quite impossible to continue the operation in this weather.”

At a briefing at the Mawa Rest House yesterday morning, the DC also told reporters: “The government, administration and the public have done everything possible. Unfortunately, we have not found the launch and so we are calling off the operation.”

The DC said most of the victims’ bodies had decomposed with around 18 unidentified already buried. “Considering all these things, we have decided that until further orders, administration and police in all districts in downstream Padma and the Coast Guard will be on the lookout for more bodies,” he said.

“If we find even one body, it will be sent to Madaripur. We will try to identify the body and hand it over to the family.” He also said the salvage ship Rustom would stand by at Mawa as long as needed.

According to the latest official count, 45 dead bodies have been recovered of which 18 remained unidentified and were buried yesterday afternoon. The number of missing people stood at 62 on final count. Of them, 17 are male, 24 female and 21 are children.

Of the rescued bodies, 27 were handed over to their families. A total of 15 of them were male, 15 women and 15 children. At least 110 people have been rescued alive so far.

On August 4, Pinak 6 capsized in Padma River near the Mawa Terminal with nearly 300 passengers on board. Soon after, local people using boats, sea-boats and trawlers launched rescue operation.

Later, Fire Service and Civil Defense, Coast Guard, Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Authority (BIWTA), Bangladesh Navy and the Chittagong Port Authority employed their latest technology-equipped vessels in search of the launch.

On Saturday, survey vessel Kanadari 2 that belongs to the Chittagong Port Authority, traced a metallic object in the riverbed; but it was not Pinak 6, said DC Saiful.

During the media briefing, he also said the traditional search, however, would continue. If any local found any trace of the launch, then Rustom would pull it up.

Private rescuer Mohammad Hassan, who started operation on Sunday, told the Dhaka Tribune that they were quite sure that they had found Pinak 6 some 150 feet under water.

He said four of their divers tried to look for the vessel yesterday but the strong wave damaged their oxygen masks and they had to come back up. The divers however left a drum at the spot on the riverbed where they thought the launch could be at.

“When the waves become normal in a few days, we will again dive in search of the vessel,” he said.

The control rooms that were set up for the salvage operation and collecting dead bodies on either sides of Padma were closed yesterday.

People from the administration and the relatives of missing people, who had gathered on the banks of Padma, have also started leaving the area.

The Dhaka Tribune talked to Ali Jobbar, who lost his daughters Halima, 20 and Tanzima, 14, and wife Jahanara Begum in the launch accident.

He said he hired a boat and tried to look for the dead bodies from Mawa to Chandpur but found nothing.

“If the authority continued the drive with boats, they could find more bodies. I do not know what to do… I will continue looking for them for as long as I can,” said Jobbar with tears in his eyes.

Source: Dhaka Tribune

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