Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Authority (BIWTA) on Friday formed an investigation committee to probe the incident of fire at a launch in Sugandha river.

A joint rescue team of police and the fire service has so far recovered 36 bodies from the launch that was heading towards Barguna with around 800 passengers. The fire broke out at around 3:00am on Friday.

A six-member committee has been formed to investigate into the fire, said BIWTA’s public relations officer Mizanur Rahman.

BIWTA’s additional director (port and transport division) Md Saiful Islam has been made the chief of the committee.

Speaking to Prothom Alo, fire service department’s Barishal division deputy director Kamal Hossain Bhuiyan said they initially suspected that the fire broke out from the launch’s engine room.

Fire service department said they were informed about the fire around 3:30am and they reached the spot around 3:45am and began the rescue operations.

36 bodies are recovered as of Friday morning as launch catches fire mid-river in Jhalakathi on 24 December 2021

Fifteen units of the fire service department along with coast guard, police, local volunteers and local people joined the rescue operations. The fire was brought under control around 5:15am.

About 75 people sustaining burn injuries were admitted to Sher-e-Bangla Medical College Hospital and 15 others in Jhalakathi Sadar Hospital in Barisal.

Many are still missing. Deputy commissioner, Johar Ali, and senior police officials are supervising the rescue task.

Unharmed passengers said the launch caught fire while it was on the Sugandha river in Jhalakathi. The launch was later diverted to the bank near Diakul village.

State minister for shipping Khalid Mahmud Chowdhury has expressed deep shock and sorrow at the loss of lives in the Jhalakathi launch fire incident.

State minister for shipping Khalid Mahmud Chowdhury
File photo

In a condolence message, the state minister prayed for eternal peace of the departed souls and conveyed deep sympathy to the bereaved family members.

He sought early recovery of the people who have sustained burn injuries.

Meanwhile, relatives of the launch passengers gathered on the banks of the river.

Kamal Hossain Bhuiyan, deputy director of Barisal Fire Service, told Prothom Alo that five units were working to rescue the victims.

Rescue operations were being hampered due to dense fog, he added.