39 dead, several others missing after fire engulfs Bangladesh river ferry

Bangladeshi media reports that 39 people were killed after a river ferry was razed by fire in the southern part of the country on Friday, December 24.

The three-deck ferry Avijan-10 was transiting the Sugandha River near the town of Jhalokati some 250 kilometres south of the country’s capital of Dhaka when a blaze ignited in its engine room at around 03:00 local time on Friday.

Witnesses said many people who were on board jumped into the water to avoid the flames, which quickly spread throughout the vessel.

Firefighters rushed to the banks of the Sugandha near where the ferry was temporarily anchored. They were able to extinguish the blaze within five hours.

Another eight hours elapsed before the charred hull was finally cooled down to allow rescue teams to safely board and inspect the interior for any survivors.

Divers were able to recover the bodies of 37 individuals from the surrounding waters in the aftermath of the incident. Some of the deceased had burn injuries while the remainder are believed to have drowned.

A police official said that two individuals who were found alive at the scene succumbed to their injuries as they were being brought to hospital for treatment, bringing the death toll to 39.

Nearly a hundred other passengers and crew suffered less severe injuries from the mishap. All are being treated in hospital.

Search operations are ongoing in the area as an undetermined number of passengers are still missing.

Avijan-10 was reportedly carrying more than 500 passengers at the time of the incident despite the fact that the manifest had only 310 individuals listed therein.

Three separate investigations have been launched to identify the events that led to the fire. As part of one investigation, a local court has ordered the arrests of the ferry’s four owners and four other individuals in connection with the incident.

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