People responsible for devastating launch fire must be punished

EditorialProthom Alo illustration

Neither waterways nor the roads are safe. This was proved again when 38 people were killed in a fire on the launch MV Abhijan-10 in the middle of Sugandha river near Jhalakathi at 2.30am on Wednesday. None of the people being treated at the burn unit are out of danger, said the hospital authorities In that case the death toll could rise further.

The information about the launch that was revealed after the incident is quite worrying. It has been revealed that the engine of the launch was changed without permission, it was carrying more passengers than its capacity and the master of the launch continued to run the launch even after the engine caught fire. The fire extinguishing system on the launch was not adequate either.

The pictures of the launch show that it was completely burnt. Only the skeleton-like structure of the launch somehow stands still. The people concerned say if the launch was anchored to nearby shores right after the fire started, the casualties could have been avoided.

According to Fire Service and Civil Defence of Barishal, the fire was initially thought to be ignited from the engine room. The eyewitnesses say the entire deck of the launch got heated after it left the Barishal river port. Due to cold and fog, the deck was covered with a canvas. The fire started as soon as the launch reached the Deuri area around 2.30am. After the launch moved a bit further, the engine room caught fire and it spread throughout the launch.

According to the fitness certificate, the launch named MV Abhijan-10 was built in 2019. It is 64 metres in length and 2.8 metres in depth. The registration number of the launch is 01-2339. MV Abhijan-10 is not the only launch carrying too many passengers. All the launches on every route carry more passengers than capacity. In hope of extra profit, the owners operate launches on every route following a certain method. It is they who decide which company’s launch is to operate on a particular day. The authorities have nothing to do here.

The more worrying fact is that despite emergency calls to 999, the fire service did not reach there before morning. The local people rescued the passengers from the launch risking their own lives. They proved that people are there for the people.

The government has formed a probe to investigate the incident. But the question remains as to whether the truth will be revealed through the investigation or not. In the past, such investigation reports were never made public. The instances of action being taken against the liable person are also rare.

The people, who are liable for the death of so many people on MV Abhijan-10, must be brought to book. At the same time, proper compensation for the families of the deceased should be ensured as well.