Red Crescent volunteers continue the search for the missing after Bangladesh ferry disaster

Publicado: 6 agosto 2014 16:26 CET

By Himadri Ahsan, IFRC

Bangladesh Red Crescent Society volunteers rushed to Maowa jetty in Munshiganj district an hour after a ferry  capsized within half a kilometre of the river bank of Padma on 4 August. The over-loaded ferry was carrying an estimated 200 people when strong currents and waves in the river caused it to overturn. 

Two teams from the Red Crescent headquarters and local Munshiganj branch office equipped with search-and-rescue equipment and body-bags joined rescue efforts led by the emergency services. So far 78 people have been rescued and six bodies retrieved. 

Mahbub, a Red Crescent tracing officer is one of 40 volunteers who remain at  Maowa jetty.  “So far families of 130 people believed to have been on the ferry, have reported them missing to us. We will continue this service for as long as the government authorities are working here.” 

The Red Crescent provides lists of the missing to the police and they are used in the process of identifying any bodies that are found in the water. 

Shihab, head of the Youth section of the Munshiganj Red Crescent branch said: “The strong current is preventing volunteers to go further out in to the river to look for the many people that are feared dead. We are doing all we can at this point with the tools we have and we will stay until the ferry is found.” 

The Red Crescent team has also been providing psychosocial support to the families who are coming to report their loved ones missing.

“Often people, such as the family I spoke to yesterday who lost seven members, are too devastated to provide details,” says Shihab. “One mother actually swam from the opposite riverbank to come and report her lost child.”

The passengers on the ferry were returning from home villages after celebrating Eid al-Fitr, the festival marking the end of the Islamic month of Ramadan. Abul Kalam from Dhaka, who reported his uncle missing at the Red Crescent tracing booth, said: “My uncle was with five other people – part of a 15-member group who went on a religious ceremony. Ten people already reached home, and informed me that uncle and others were on this ferry. I came here to find him. I was planning to go to the mosque to pray with him like we always do whenever he would visit. His children won’t be able to reach this jetty until much later tonight, but I’m not going anywhere until they come.”

Tents belonging to groups involved in the rescue effort have been set up at Maowa jetty as search operations continue. Two rescue ships are still looking for the ferry, while others are standing by to go further in look for bodies once the river conditions improve.

Meanwhile on the opposite river bank the Red Crescents Madaripur branch has been activated to set up a tracing booth for the search operation there.