West News Wire: According to authorities, a large fire blasted through a crowded river boat in Bangladesh early Friday, killing at least 39 people and injuring 70 more. Many passengers jumped off the ship into the freezing sea to escape the fire.
According to fire officer Kamal Uddin Bhuiyan, who headed the rescue mission, it took 15 fire engines two hours to put out the fire and another eight to cool down the vessel. The ferry’s charred hull sat moored at the river’s bank after that. While divers continued to scour the waters, many worried relatives gathered on the banks.
The fire started at 3 a.m. aboard the MV Avijan-10, which was carrying 800 passengers, many of whom were visiting family and friends for the weekend, according to officials.
“I was sleeping on the deck and woke up hearing screams and a loud noise,” survivor Anisur Rahman told reporters, adding that he saw smoke coming from the back of the ferry. “I jumped into the freezing water of the river in the thick fog, like many other passengers, and swam to the riverbank.”
Police officer Moinul Haque said rescuers recovered 39 bodies from the river, while two people died from burn injures on the way to the hospital. All of the 70 injured were hospitalized, including some with severe burns.
Ferries are a leading means of transportation in Bangladesh, which is crisscrossed by about 130 rivers, and accidents involving the vessels are common, often blamed on overcrowding or lax safety rules.
The ferry was traveling from Dhaka, the capital, to Barguna, about 250 kilometers (155 miles) to the south. It caught fire off the coast of Jhalokati district on the Sugandha River, towards the end of the journey.
Bhuiyan said the fire may have started in the engine room. The government set up two committees to investigate the blaze and ordered them to report their findings in three days.
In April, 25 people died after a ferry collided with another vessel and capsized outside Dhaka.