TIME Bangladesh

125 Presumed Dead in Bangladesh Ferry Sinking

Bangladesh Ferry Acident
A Bangladeshi woman cries for her missing family members, victims of a ferry capsize, in Munshiganj district, Bangladesh, Tuesday, Aug. 5, 2014. A.M. Ahad—AP Photo

In May, about 50 people died in a ferry accident in the same district

(DHAKA, Bangladesh) — Families of scores of people presumed dead after their ferry capsized in central Bangladesh accused authorities on Tuesday of launching a feeble rescue effort and leaving their loved ones trapped inside the vessel for more than 24 hours.

More than 200 people were believed to be on board the M.V. Pinak when it capsized Monday. Shipping Minister Shajahan Khan told reporters Tuesday that at least 125 were presumed dead and 110 others either swam to safety or were rescued after the accident on the Padma river. Rescuers have not been able to locate the capsized ferry because of strong currents, he said.

“Can’t I expect the body of my sister? What are they doing? Nothing,” said Monir Hossain, who traveled to the accident site to search for his sister.

Officials can only estimate the number of people on board because ferry operators in Bangladesh rarely keep passenger lists.

On Tuesday, rescuers were still trying to locate the ferry using ropes, tug boats and speed boats while two big rescue vessels remained on shore near the accident site because of stormy weather. Rescuers were also using sensor equipment to locate the ferry, which went under about 80 feet (24 meters) of water, but strong currents were hampering their efforts, Khan said.

Bangladesh lacks sufficient specialized equipment needed to conduct search and rescue operations in deep water. The equipment that did reach the accident site could not be used because of extremely rough weather, Khan said.

He said the big rescue boats could only begin retrieving bodies once the exact location of the sunken boat is known.

“We are trying to bring another survey ship to locate the ferry,” Khan said.

Dozens of relatives of the missing passengers briefly blocked a street near the site to protest.

They complained that authorities were not making enough efforts to bring the ferry out of the water.

Many of the passengers aboard the ferry were returning from their ancestral villages after celebrating Eid al-Fitr, the festival marking the end of the Islamic fasting month of Ramadan.

Scores of people die in ferry accidents every year in Bangladesh, where boats are a common form of transportation. The Padma is one of the largest rivers in the delta nation, which is crisscrossed by more than 130 rivers.

Poor safety standards and overcrowding are often blamed for the accidents. In May, about 50 people died in a ferry accident in the same district.

TIME Bangladesh

Bangladesh Rescuers Struggle to Find Sunken Ferry

Bangladesh Ferry Accident
Bangladeshi people gather on the banks of the River Padma after a passenger ferry capsized in Munshiganj district, Bangladesh, Monday, Aug. 4, 2014. A.M. Ahad—AP Photo

Many of the passengers aboard the ferry were returning from ancestral villages after celebrating Eid al-Fitr

(LOUHAJONG, Bangladesh) — Rescuers were struggling Tuesday to locate a sunken ferry that was overloaded and carrying hundreds of passengers when it capsized in a river in central Bangladesh, leaving at least two people dead and probably many more.

After the M.V. Pinak sank late Monday morning, at least 44 passengers swam safely to shore, but it was unclear Tuesday how many were missing. The head of Bangladesh’s water transport authority said about 50 people were unaccounted for, while local administrators received a list of 116 missing people from relatives and villagers.

It was not known exactly how many people were on board the boat because ferry operators in Bangladesh rarely maintain passenger lists. Local media said there were about 250 passengers, but the figure could not be immediately confirmed.

A salvage ship reached the accident site in the River Padma on Tuesday, but strong currents and high waves were preventing a rescue operation from being launched, said Shipping Minister Shahjahan Khan.

On Monday, local residents and rescuers recovered two bodies from the water, but many more were believed to be trapped inside.

Many of the passengers aboard the ferry were returning from ancestral villages after celebrating Eid al-Fitr, the festival marking the end of the Islamic fasting month of Ramadan.

Azizul Haque, who was among those who survived by swimming to shore, said he jumped overboard when it became clear the ferry was going down.

“The ferry went out of control due to winds and currents, tilting from one side to the other,” Haque, 30, said. “Then the captain jumped out because he probably understood it was sinking. The river was rough, and there were many passengers on board.”

The ferry capsized in the Padma River in Munshiganj district, about 44 kilometers (28 miles) south of Dhaka, Bangladesh’s capital.

Jasim Uddin, 35, was among a crowd of people who watched the vessel go down from the shore, recording it on his cellphone as it disappeared.

When the survivors began to come to shore, he said they were exhausted and panicked.

“One woman swam nearly to shore and was picked up by a speedboat,” he said. “She was crying, saying she has two daughters. It was panic. Everyone was praying to God.”

As news spread of the accident on Monday, about 500 people, including relatives of the missing, gathered by the water, many of them weeping and holding photos of their loved ones.

Scores of people die in ferry accidents every year in Bangladesh, where boats are a common form of transportation. The Padma is one of the largest rivers in the delta nation, which is crisscrossed by more than 130 rivers.

Poor safety standards and overcrowding are often blamed for the accidents. In May, about 50 people died in a ferry accident in the same district.

On Monday, the Ministry of Shipping ordered an investigation into the latest tragedy, giving a 10-day deadline.

TIME Bangladesh

Bangladeshi Ferry Capsizes Southwest of Dhaka With 200 Aboard

Rescue effort is in progress

A Bangladeshi river ferry capsized about 18 miles southwest of the capital of Dhaka while crossing the Padma River on Monday, the Associated Press reports.

Initial reports said that the boat, called the Pinak-6, was carrying around 200 passengers, though local media has ventured that as many as 250 may have been onboard.

The success of the ongoing rescue operation remains uncertain, though authorities confirmed that two people had died. Tofazzal Hossain, a local police chief, told the Wall Street Journal that at least two people died and, if eyewitness accounts prove correct, as many as 200 people may have perished. Earlier statements that government and military rescue efforts had pulled 44 people from the waters of the Padma River could not be verified.

TIME Bangladesh

You’ll Never Guess Where Some of the Most Fanatical Fans of the Argentina and Brazil Soccer Teams Can be Found

Bangladesh Soccer WCup
A man examines a T-shirt in the style of Brazil's national soccer team, being offered by a street vendor in Dhaka, Bangladesh, on June 1, 2014 A.M. Ahad—AP

Hint: it's a long way from South America

Correction appended, June 20, 2014

On June 7, groups of Argentina and Brazil fans clashed over the World Cup — but not on the streets of Rio or in a sports bar in Buenos Aires. Instead, the unlikely location was Barisal, which is not — as it vaguely sounds — some upcountry Amazon backwater. It’s a port city of some 270,000 souls on the Kirtankhola River in Bangladesh. And the fans were Bangladeshi.

The trouble began when a Brazil fan, called Mahmud Hasan, was sitting in the dining room of the Barisal Polytechnic Institute and began chanting that the infamous 1986 “Hand of God” goal against England scored by Argentine star player Diego Maradona’s was “illegal.” Argentina fans sitting nearby took umbrage — and the subsequent clash injured 11.

Then, on June 18, in the town of Hatibandha in Bangladesh’s far north, an 18-year-old restaurant worker, Milon Hossain, was killed when rival groups of Argentina and Brazil fans began hurling stones at each other.

Bangladesh is a country in the grip of World Cup madness — and the two South American giants are luring fanatical levels of support.

The flags of Argentina and Brazil are flying everywhere. Local authorities in the western town of Jessore have gotten nationalist angst over the sight of so many foreign flags and tried to ban them, but in vain.

“We don’t mind people wearing jerseys of their favourite teams or [using] billboards or banners,” Mustafizur Rahman, a government administrator, told AFP. “But it does not look good when flags of foreign nations are flying on your rooftops. We have become a nation of Argentina and Brazil.”

The danger isn’t just limited to outbreaks of violence. In the capital Dhaka, at least three enthusiasts have died hanging Argentina flags from the city’s precarious electric wiring. They were later dubbed “World Cup martyrs” by the local press.

Ifty Mahmud, a journalist at Bangladesh’s largest daily newspaper, the Prothom Alo, says support for Brazil is rooted in Bangladeshi poverty. The Brazil team also “looks like us,” explains Ifty, “just see Pelé, Romário and Neymar, they are dark-skinned so are we, [Brazil] are poor, so are we.”

Support for Argentina, meanwhile, has an “anticolonial character, because Maradona beat the English,” the country’s former colonial ruler. “Beckham is not popular here.” Maradona meanwhile, “is crazy, Bangladeshis love crazy people!”

“The way he cheated the colonial power, because it was daylight cheating, had symbolic resonance,” concurs Abu Ahasan, a researcher and anthropologist at BRAC (formerly the Bangladesh Rural Advancement Committee, though these days it is known solely by the acronym). “The same thing happened with Muhammad Ali and the West Indies cricket team; it captured the imagination.”

The Argentina team, perhaps aware of their huge support base in Bangladesh, made a rare visit to the country in September 2011 playing Nigeria in a friendly match at Bangladesh’s packed national stadium. Current Argentina and Barcelona star Lionel Messi shimmied his way into the nation’s affections, and giant screens were erected around the city for fans who could not get tickets.

Such is the fanaticism for the two South American teams that members of an E.U. mission have been trying to understand why European teams aren’t more popular. Despite the game being introduced in the country by the British, its mournful memo pointed out, “there are hardly any visible England flags on the streets.”

Correction: The original version of this story misstated the name of a journalist. He is Ifty Mahmud, not Ifty Islam.

TIME Bangladesh

Death Toll Climbs in Bangladesh Ferry Disaster

A relative mourns as he waits for the news of his brother, who was a passenger of the M.V. Miraj-4 ferry which capsized, by the Meghna river at Rasulpur in Munshiganj district
A relative mourns as he waits for the news of his brother, who was a passenger of the M.V. Miraj-4 ferry which capsized, by the Meghna river at Rasulpur in Munshiganj district May 16, 2014. Reuters

It’s unclear how many people were on board when the ship capsized on a stormy river Thursday

At least 29 people were killed and more than 100 remain missing after a ferry capsized Thursday during a storm on the Meghna River near Bangladesh’s capital of Dhaka.

It was unclear exactly how many people were aboard the ship, since the ferry did not maintain a list of passengers. An investigation is underway to determine if the vessel was overcrowded, the Associated Press reports.

Officials told the AP they were trying to locate the ferry crew, who they believe may have left the area after the accident.

Ferry accidents due to overcrowding and defective ships are common in Bangladesh. In 2012, at least 150 people died when a ferry carrying roughly 200 people capsized near the site of the latest accident.

[AP]

 

 

 

 

 

TIME Bangladesh

Bangladesh Ferry Capsizes With About 200 Onboard

The ferry capsized outside the capital in stormy weather, triggering a rescue operation involving the the country's navy and coast guard.

A ferry carrying about 200 people capsized in a river in Bangladesh Thursday, Reuters reports. At least six bodies have been recovered so far.

The ferry overturned in the Meghna River near the capital of Dhaka amid stormy weather. The government has dispatched navy and coast guard vessels to aid in rescue efforts.

One of the six recovered bodies is that of a child, Reuters reports.

[Reuters]

TIME India

While Indian Politicians Argue, People in Assam Stuck in Violent Cycle

An Indian resident salvages valuables in the remains of his house in the village of Khagrabari, some 200 km west of Guwahati on May 3, 2014, after it was attacked by tribal separatists in India's remote northeastern state of Assam Biju Boro—AFP/Getty Images

More than 30 Muslims were killed in two districts of western Assam late last week, as long-simmering sectarian tensions become seized upon by Indian election rivals

Hanif Ali picks through the remains of what used to be his home, looking for his wife’s gold jewelry. Three nights before, on the evening of May 2, eyewitnesses say men in khaki clothing stormed this isolated village of Khagrabari in western Assam, attacking its Muslim residents and burning down their homes. Ali, his wife and his daughter survived the raid, but many of their neighbors did not. Twenty villagers, including many women and children, died that evening in the latest fit of bloodshed in the restive northeastern state. “Everything is gone,” says Ali. “What good will peace do me now?”

Last week, more than 30 Muslims were killed in two districts of western Assam, a place better known outside India for its verdant tea gardens than its simmering insurgency. For residents, it was an unwelcome return to the violence that periodically stalks this remote part when tensions boil up between members of the local Bodo community and Muslim residents. In 2012, clashes between Bodos and Muslims, some of whom are migrants from neighboring Bangladesh, left dozens dead and displaced many thousands more. Local police are blaming last week’s killings in Kokrajhar and Baksa districts on a faction of the National Democratic Front of Bodoland (NDFB), a militant group fighting for an independent Bodo homeland. Since the killings, Indian security forces have ramped up operations against the group, though it has denied any involvement in the bloodshed.

Outside Assam, as national elections enter their final weeks, the violence has prompted a fresh war of words between national parties about the treatment of minority groups in India. Leaders of the incumbent Congress Party, which projects a secular platform, and its allies have seized on the incident as an example of the divisive influence of the Hindu-nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which is forecast to win the largest number of seats in Parliament. Both the BJP and its prime-ministerial candidate, Narendra Modi, have spoken out against illegal immigration of Muslims from Bangladesh in the past, which critics say fans tensions in a state where the issue is already a polarizing factor.

“In Assam, 30 Muslims were murdered. Why? Because BJP prime-ministerial candidate, Narendra Modi, made a speech there and tried to incite people against Muslims,” Omar Abdullah, chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir, said at a rally in his state on Saturday, according to Indian press. “This truth cannot be denied.” The same day, union minister and Congress Party senior leader Kapil Sibal also lashed out at Modi, saying his name stands for “a model of dividing India.”

Taking a stand against illegal immigration is not new for the BJP. After the 2012 Assam riots, senior party leader L.K. Advani blamed the bloodshed on unchecked illegal immigration from Bangladesh creating competition for resources between communities and general insecurity among Bodos. This week, the BJP quickly shot back at Congress for its comments, and, instead of backing down from the issue, at a rally in West Bengal, Modi reiterated his position against illegal immigrants days after the killings. “Those who come here for vote-bank politics and take away jobs of our youth will have to go back,” said Modi.

It’s impossible to measure, of course, what if any role political rhetoric actually played in last week’s violence. A handful of militant groups have been operating in the area for years. Though some have officially agreed to a cease-fire, the ongoing availability of arms in the region seems a more fundamental culprit in feeding the cycle of violence that afflicts both Bodos and Muslims alike. After widespread displacement in the state less than two years ago, hundreds of people are now back in relief camps, terrified to return home, lest more armed men come to their homes in the night again. Pramad Bodo, president of the All Bodo Students Union, says he does not think last week’s killings were religiously motivated. But, he says, everyone is weary of the seemingly fruitless fight between militants and security forces. “Bodo or Muslim — people are angry,” he says. “If the extremists are involved [this time], what has the government been doing?”

With reporting by Arijit Sen in Assam

TIME Aviation

Forget Australia, the Missing Jet May Have Crashed Near Bangladesh

Trent Wyatt
Sergeant Trent Wyatt, a crew member of a Royal New Zealand Air Force P-3 Orion, takes part in the search for the missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 over the Indian Ocean on April 11, 2014 Richard Wainwright—AP

A geological survey company says it has evidence suggesting that MH370 crashed off the coast of Bangladesh, not Australia

The hunt for missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 should turn several thousand kilometers from the southern Indian Ocean to the Bay of Bengal, say supporters of new evidence that could suggest that the doomed jet may have crashed around 190 km (120 miles) south of Bangladesh.

Australian company GeoResonance uses radiation scanning technology to locate significant concentrations of minerals and metals. By comparing images of the Bay of Bengal before and after the jet disappeared, the firm uncovered what it believes to be a sudden deposit of aluminum — the chief component of the Boeing 777 that vanished shortly after departing Kuala Lumpur on March 8 — along with titanium, jet-fuel residue and other key substances that may indicate the wreckage of a commercial airliner on the seabed.

Nothing has been confirmed, but the firm says that the technology has previously “been successfully applied to locate submersed structures, ships, munitions and aircraft.” It stresses that it “is not declaring this is MH 370” but that the findings should be investigated.

Malaysian acting Transportation Minister Hishammuddin Hussein says Malaysia is “working with its international partners to assess the credibility of this information.”

The Joint Agency Coordination Centre (JACC), which runs the search from Australia, has dismissed GeoResonance’s suggestion, with officials in Perth saying they are “satisfied” four signals detected in the Indian Ocean came from the black boxes of the missing aircraft.

Those signals were plotted along a corridor defined by analysis of maintenance data by British satellite firm Inmarsat. Hundreds of air and sea reconnaissance missions have been launched based on the analysis, making the search operation the most expensive in history. An underwater drone continues to operate along this route.

However, by Inmarsat’s own admission, the calculations that defined the southern search corridor had never been done before. The firm’s refusal to release raw data, despite repeated desperate pleas from distraught relatives, means the scientific community has been unable to critique or corroborate the findings.

Jules Jaffe, of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, in California, tells TIME that he would like to think the Indian Ocean pings came from MH370, but: “One would really want to see the data to be more confident of that. I really hope that they have the quantitative analysis to back up their claims.”

There are difficulties with GeoResonance’s theory. While multispectral analysis has been used to discover subterranean mining deposits, electromagnetic radiation is absorbed by seawater, and many simply do not accept that it is capable of detecting a plane lying under a kilometer of ocean. David Gallo of the Massachusetts-based Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, who co-led the search for Air France Flight 447, told CNN the data was “perplexing on a number of fronts.”

Nonetheless, GeoResonance says, “The company and its directors are surprised by the lack of response from the various authorities.”

TIME

Pictures of the Week April 18 – April 25

From mourning the victims of the South Korean ferry disaster to the one-year anniversary of Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines, to Obama in Japan and the running of the Boston Marathon, TIME presents the best photos of the week.

TIME Bangladesh

Otters Have Helped Bangladesh Fishermen Catch Fish For Centuries

The rare, long standing technique is in decline as natural fish populations have reduced drastically in recent years

+ READ ARTICLE

Swimming in circles alongside a fishing boat, two otters wait to catch fish in a river in southern Bangladesh. As the animals squeak in the water, fishermen lower a net into the river, in the heart of the Sundarbans, the world’s largest mangrove forest. Then, one by one, the short-haired otters dive under the water with a splash, chasing a school of fish close to the banks of the river.

Otter fishing is a centuries-old tradition in Bangladesh, where fishermen have been using trained otters to lure fish into their nets – a rare technique passed on from father to son that relies on coordination between man and otter.

“We use them because they catch more fish that we can alone,” Shashudhar Biswas, a fisherman in his 50s whose family has trained otters for generations, told the AFP. Biswas explains that the otters do not catch the fish themselves, but they chase them towards fishing nets.

“The otters manage to spot fish among the plants, then the fish swim away and we stay close with our nets. If we did it without them, we wouldn’t be able to catch as many fish,” says Shashudhar’s son, Vipul. Vipul added that it’s much easier to make ends meet thanks to this technique.

Fishing is usually done at night, and the otters can help fishermen catch as many as 26 pounds of fish, crabs and shrimp.

But the partnership between man and otter is on the verge of extinction. It’s already died out in other parts of Asia as fish populations decline, wildlife experts say. Short-haired otters are an endangered species in Bangladesh and experts say that otter fishing may play a key role in their conservation.

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