1. Skip to content
  2. Skip to main menu
  3. Skip to more DW sites

Dozens killed in Bangladesh ferry fire

December 24, 2021

Over 500 people were aboard the passenger ferry, which had a capacity of 310, when it caught fire. The blaze was put out after more than three hours, and rescue operations are still underway.

Villagers look at the burnt ferry in Jhakakathi. (Photo by AFP)
Image: AFP

Authorities in Bangladesh said at least 39 people died and more than 72 were injured when a packed passenger ferry caught fire on Friday in the southern part of the country.

Rescue operations were still underway as the fire service and divers scoured the area. Officials said the casualties were likely to rise.

What we know about the fire 

The incident took place early in the morning on the Sugandha River, near the rural town of Jhalokathi, 250 kilometers (160 miles) south of the capital, Dhaka.

The blaze seemed to have originated in the engine room of the double-deck MV Avijan-10 and quickly engulfed the rest of the ferry, officials said.

The cause of the fire is not yet known. 

The ferry had a capacity of 310, but more than 500 people were on board. It was traveling from Dhaka to the southern district of Barguna.

Several passengers dove into the river and swam to the shore while attempting to escape the fire.

A burnt passenger ferry is seen anchored off the coast of Jhalokati district on the Sugandha River in Bangladesh
Firefighters took more than three hours to extinguish the fire after the ferry was anchored at a nearby villageImage: picture alliance/AP

"We have sent some 100 people with burn injuries to the hospitals in Barisal," said police chief Moinul Islam. 

"A lot of people ran for safety as the fire spread. A lot of people could not get out of their cabins where they were sleeping. Many jumped into the river," a survivor at the Barisal Medical College Hospital told the Agence France-Presse news agency. 

Police officer Khalilur Rahman said 48 of the 72 people rescued were admitted to a government hospital with burns.

A local official said the boat had to be anchored on the riverbank at a nearby village.

"The fire went on for four or five hours before it was doused. The entire [ferry] has been gutted. But they managed to bring it to the shore," said Zohar Ali, the chief administrator of the district.

Ferry accidents becoming more common

Ferries are a major mode of transportation in the country, crisscrossed by about 130 rivers. Accidents have become more common in recent years, due to overcrowding and lax safety standards. 

Last year, a ferry sank near Dhaka after colliding with another ferry, killing at least 32 people.

In 2015, around 78 people died when an overcrowded ship collided with a cargo vessel.

tg/fb (dpa, AFP, AP)