Fire on launch leaves 38 passengers dead in Jhalakathi

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Jhalakathi, Dec 24: At least 38 passengers were killed after a fire broke out in the engine room of a launch on the Sugandha River near Jhalakathi Sadar upazila early today.

The fire started around 3:00 am on the Barguna-bound MV Abhijan-10 launch that started a journey from Dhaka.

“We have recovered 30 bodies from inside the vessel till now,” Shahidul Islam, station master of Jhalakathi Fire Service and Civil Defence said around 9:30 am today at the time of filing this report.

Many of the passengers had to jump in the river to save themselves from the fire. The number of casualties might increase, the survivors feared.

“The engine room of the launch suddenly caught fire around 3:00 am and spread rapidly when the vessel was near the Gabkhan bridge,” said Saidur Rahman, one of the survivors.

“There were around 500 passengers including children and elderly. Many of them jumped in the river and were able to swim ashore,” he said.

“I caught a burning smell and came out of VIP cabin to find out that there was a fire. Me, my wife and brother-in-law then jumped in the cold water and swam to the bank,” he described.

Ahmed Bhuiyan, the cabin boy of the launch, said there were more than five hundred passengers on the launch. Most of the cabin passengers upstairs jumped into the river. All those who were asleep died.

Jhalokathi Additional Superintendent of Police Moinul Haque said around 70 burn injured people have been rescued from the launch and sent to Jhalokathi Sadar Hospital.

Meanwhile, State Minister for Shipping Khalid Mahmud Chowdhury expressed deep condolence over the deaths of the launch passengers in fire incident.