Medical &Health

39 killed as fire rips through launch off Jhalokati coast

At least 39 people were charred to death and 72 others injured in a massive fire that ripped through a launch carrying some 800 passengers from Dhaka to Barguna in the early hours of Friday.

The blaze, in fact, began on Avijan-10 in the midstream of the Sugandha River off the coast of Jhalokati district’s Sadar upazila, 250kms south of Dhaka, around 3am. Within five to 10 minutes, the flames engulfed the vessel.

“We were alerted around 3.30am,” Fazlul Haque of Fire Service and Civil Defence in Barishal, told UNB. However, the first firefighting vessels took some time to reach the ill-fated launch due to dense fog in the area.

“Thirty-seven bodies have been recovered and 72 people rescued from the ill-fated launch,” Additional Superintendent of Police (ASP) of Jhalokathi Moinul Haque told UNB.

Of the 37 bodies, four were identified and the remaining 33 bodies were sent to Jhalokathi Sadar Hospital Morgue, said the ASP.

Of the 72 injured, 66 have been admitted to Sher-e-Bangla Medical College and Hospital (SBMCH) in Barishal with serious burns. The others are being treated at Jhalokathi Sadar Hospital.

“Of the 66, with up to 50% burns, 18 are women,” said Dr Moniruzzaman, assistant director at the SBMCH. “Three women and four men with life-threatening burns have been referred to Dhaka Medical College and Hospital as we’ve no dedicated burn unit.”

UNB Barishal Correspondent reports that two of the injured succumbed to burn injuries on the way to Dhaka Medical College and Hospital.

Meanwhile, the ill-fated vessel has been brought to the shore.

“In fact, Jhalokathi’s local firefighters initially tried to douse the flames and later the Barishal fire service joined them,” said Kamal Uddin, Deputy Director (Barishal division) of Fire Service and Civil Defence.

Eventually, 5 firefighters took nearly two hours to bring the blaze under control at 5.20am. “The fire was completely doused around 11.30am,” said Kamal.

As it was the weekend eve (Thursday), Kamal said, the launch was carrying over 800 passengers. “Most of them jumped off the vessel and swam to the shore after the fire had broken out on board.”

The Shipping Ministry and Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Authority have formed two committees to probe the fire. The ministry panel has been asked to submit its report within three days.

Source: United News Bangladesh