Jhalakathi launch fire: Death toll climbs to 42

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Jhalakathi, Dec 27: The death toll from the deadly fire in launch MV Avijan-10 in the Sugandha River near Jhalakathi rose to 42 with the recovery of another body from the Bishkhali River at Shachilapur in Jhalakathi district Monday morning.

Deputy Commissioner of the district Md Zohar Ali said firefighters recovered the body from the river around 9 am after being informed by the local police.

The deceased was identified as Hakim Sharif, 60, hailing from Barguna sadar upazila.

Hakim’s cousin, Kohinur Begum, identified the body.

Three of his family members — wife Priya Begum, 55, daughter Hafsa,17, and son Nasir Ullah,2, — with whom he was travelling to Barguna remained missing.

However, Coast Guard members and firefighters continued their search operation in the Sugandha River for the 4th consecutive day on Monday.

Meanwhile, the police control room set up at the launch terminal provided the information of 47 missing passengers so far, said Md Salauddin, sub-inspector of Jhalakathi Sadar police station.

Members of Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) have arrested Hamjalal Sheikh, one of the owners of launch MV ‘Avijan-10’, in connection with the deadly fire incident in the launch.

ANM Imran Khan, Assistant Director (ASP) of Legal and Media Wing of Rab, said Hamjalal was held from Keraniganj early Monday.

His arrest followed Dhaka Marine Court’s warrants for the arrest of four owners and four master drivers of the launch as a case filed by the Department of Shipping.

The accused in the case are four owners of the launch company, ‘Messers Al Araf and Company’, Md Hamjalal Sheikh, Md Shamim Ahmed, Md Rasel Ahmed, and Ferdous Hasan Rabby, in-charge master of Avijan-10 Md Riaz Sikder, in-charge driver Masum Billah, second master Khalilur Rahman, second driver Abul Kalam.

The shipping department suspended the licences of the launch and its drivers.

A three-member probe committee was formed on Sunday by the shipping department that will submit a report within 15 working days after investigating the fire in the launch.

The blaze broke out at 3am on Friday on the Barguna-bound launch carrying some 800 passengers from Dhaka and it engulfed the entire vessel within 10 minutes.

The death toll from the fire incident climbed to 41 on Saturday night. Besides, over 70 people suffered injuries and many of them are undergoing treatment at different hospitals.

However, the exact number of passengers travelling by the launch and the missing passengers is yet to be known.