DHAKA, Bangladesh (AP) – A huge fire swept through a crowded river ferry in Bangladesh early Friday, killing at least 39 people and injuring 70, officials said. Many passengers jumped from the ship into the cold waters to escape the blaze.
It took 15 fire trucks two hours to bring the blaze under control and eight more to cool the ship, according to fire officer Kamal Uddin Bhuiyan, who led the rescue operation. Subsequently, the blackened hull of the ferry anchored to the riverside. Many anxious parents gathered on the shores, as divers continued to search the waters.
The fire started around 3 a.m. on the MV Avijan-10, which was carrying 800 passengers, many of whom were traveling to visit family and friends for the weekend, officials said.
âI was sleeping on the deck and woke up hearing screams and a loud noise,â survivor Anisur Rahman told reporters, adding that he saw smoke billowing from the back of the ferry. “I jumped into the icy water of the river in the thick fog, like many of the other passengers, and swam to the shore.”
Police officer Moinul Haque said rescuers recovered 37 bodies from the river, while two people died from burns on their way to hospital. The 70 injured were hospitalized, some with severe burns.
Ferries are one of the main modes of transportation in Bangladesh, which is crisscrossed by around 130 rivers, and accidents involving ships are common, often blamed on overcrowding or lax safety regulations.
The ferry was traveling from Dhaka, the capital, to Barguna, about 250 kilometers (155 miles) to the south. It caught fire off the coast of Jhalokati District on the Sugandha River near the end of the trip.
Bhuiyan said the fire may have started in the engine room. The government has set up two committees to investigate the blaze and ordered them to report their findings within three days.
In April, 25 people died after a ferry collided with another ship and capsized outside Dhaka.
This story has been updated to correct that 37 bodies were removed from the river, not 39. Two people rescued alive later died. It also shows that there are now 70 injured in the hospital.
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