Task unfinished

Tk 1cr go down the drain for futile bid to recover sunken Pinak-6

15 August 2014 Kazi Zahidul Hasan

Over Tk 1 crore went down to the drain as the authorities concerned have called off the salvage operation of the sunken passengers launch Pinak-6 in the river Padma keeping the task unfinished.  
The authorities reportedly spent over Tk one crore to salvage the launch that capsized in the river Padma, 800 yards from Mawa Launch Terminal on August 4, official sources said.
Sources said, the launch was carrying more than 200 passengers on board. Bodies of 46 victims have so far been found and 61 were still missing.
After eight days of search, the authorities on Monday called off the salvage operation without any success, leading the victim families to utter frustration.
The Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Authority (BIWTA), Bangladesh Navy, Chittagong Port Authority, Department of Shipping, Fire Service and Civil Defense and Coastguard have jointly conducted the rescue operation to trace and recover the sunken launch from Padma.
The rescuers of different government agencies ran the operation over a large area of roughly 50 square kilometers of the accident spot, but their task remained unfinished raising many questions among the relatives of the victim passengers.
Terming the rescue operation futile, the relatives of the missing passengers, who busted with anger following the authorities' decision to abandon the rescue operation, alleged that the concerned agencies were not interested in salvaging the vessel since the beginning of the rescue operation.
They also questioned about the efficiency of concerned government agencies that took part in the operation and effectiveness of technologies used for tracing the vessels and objects under deep river water.   
 "Different government agencies and local people did everything possible to locate the sunken launch, but failed," deputy commissioner (DC) of Munshiganj Md Saiful Hasan Badal told reporters while calling off the salvage operation.
He added: The rough weather and the turbulent river hampered the search operation. Under these circumstances, no positive outcome was possible. Considering the reality, we abandoned the rescue operation officially.
 "About Tk 1 crore went down to the drain to salvage the Pinak-6 and we got basically nothing due to poor coordination among the authorities concerned," a senior BIWTA official told The New Nation yesterday on condition of anonymity. He claimed, it was the largest ever salvage operation, which engaged the highest number of rescue vessels at a time. Among the vessels, two were equipped with sub-bottom profiler, multi-beam echo sounder, side scan SONAR and single beam eco sunder, were the latest technologies in the world.
Now, the question could easily raise why the operation failed? The failure was due to lack of coordination among the government agencies and inefficiency of the BIWTA officials, he said. He further said, the key agencies like BIWTA, the fire service and the navy launched rescue operations of their own instead of a coordinated effort. "Even, the Shipping Minister Shajahan Khan managed to hold the first coordination meeting after four days of the accident portraying the poor coordination among the concerned agencies," he added.     
Another official of a government agency, who took part in the rescue operation said, the authorities put a belated effort to rescue the launch and by this time the vessel disappeared far away from the mishap spot due to the strong current of river Padma. "The things made even harder as the rescue troops except Navy personnel do not have proper training for such operation," he added.
He, however, said, if the authorities came forward hurriedly for rescue operation, it might have been possible to locate the sunken launch.
The people had to witness the recurrence of launch disaster because of negligence, corruption and inefficiency of the officials of concerned departments and flaws of laws by the launch owners. "The existing indifference between the BIWTA and Department of Shipping is also responsible for launch disaster," he said.
Shipping Minister M Shajahan Khan and BIWTA Chairman Dr Md. Samsuddoha Khondaker could not be reached for comment despite several attempts on their cell phones.

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