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Toll Rises to 78 in Bangladesh Boat Mishap
By Ataur Rahman
Bangladesh Correspondent
"Coco-4" capsizes on Nov. 28, 2009 on Tentulia river, Bangladesh.

Dhaka, Bangladesh — At least 78 people including 22 children and eight women were killed in a small overloaded boat "Coco-4" which capsized on Nov. 28, 2009 on Tentulia river in Bhola district, southern part of Bangladesh .

The accident occurred late on the day when the MV Coco-4 was trying to anchor at Nazirpur terminal in Lalmohon, some 40 kilometres from Bhola district town.

The scores remained unaccounted for when a small overloaded launch carrying homecoming passengers on Eid occasion capsized partially.

Twenty bodies were recovered on Nov. 30 (Monday), 2009 from the site after they floated to the surface of the Tentulia river overnight, with passengers still missing.

The exact number of missing is still not clear while a fire service official said there were no more bodies left inside hull of the launch.

The official, Mohammad Shahabuddin, told reporters the divers searched the launch and probably, there is no more body. They could not find any after searching in the river waters around the launch.

The rescue operation was suspended at 4:30pm for the day.

District commissioner Mesbahul Islam told Journalists they were planning about how to continue further rescue operation.

Deputy shipping secretary Baitul Amin Bhuiyan, one of the members of a five-member probe committee formed earlier, told reporters they have got a list of 103 missing people from the district administration. Of these, only 22 bodies have been recovered while others should be deemed as missing.

However, the district administration Sunday said some 50 people were missing.

The committee was reconstituted on November 30, (Monday) by adding two more members. Joint chief of the shipping ministry Jayanta Kumar Nandi was made the convenor of the newly formed committee.

The old five-member committee visited the spot and talked to the surviving 12 passengers of the launch and the local people.

It was carrying more than triple its capacity, with over 1,500 passengers, from Dhaka to Lalmohon ahead of the Eid-ul-Azha.

The vessel, crowded from hull to decks with people heading home to celebrate with families, began tipping with the weight of disembarking passengers and partially sank, according to eye witnesses.

Salvage vessel MV Hamza reached the spot on Sunday morning to right the sunken ferry and ease rescue work.

Police, divers of BIWTA and fire service men have been engaged in rescue operations since the early hours of Saturday.

Thirty-one bodies, mostly women and children, were recovered on Saturday.

Another 21 bodies were retrieved from the hull of MV Coco-4 on Sunday after the salvage vessel re-floated the partially capsized ferry.

Hundreds of people gathered on the bank of the river throughout the Eid day Saturday and following Sunday, anxiously waiting for their relatives who were on board the launch.

They were rushing to the dead bodies as they were being retrieved fearing the worst.

The unlucky families who suffered losses wailed over their dead ones.

Prime minister Sheikh Hasina, now in Port of Spain attending a Commonwealth summit, expressed her grief Saturday over the launch disaster and ordered speedy rescue operations and investigation into the accident.

The president also expressed his sorrow condolences for the grieving families.

Three committees have been formed to report on aspects of the launch disaster.

BIWTA on Sunday also formed a five-strong body to investigate the incident, its chairman Abdul Malek told Journalists

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Mr. Ataur Rahman serves as Bangladesh Correspondent for The Seoul Times. He earned his Master of Commerce degree from Dhaka University in 1985. Mr. Rahman has vast journalistic experience including his stints at "The Daily Janata" and "The Dainik Bangla."






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