A 16-member Citizens' Investigation Committee has found the negligence of four government officials, four launch owners and four others in the Jhalakathi MV Abhijan-10 fire incident that claimed the lives of 50 people.
Ashish Kumar Dey, the chief coordinator of the committee, came up with the information while speaking at a press briefing at Dhaka Reporters Unity (DRU) on Saturday.
The committee was formed to find out the reasons behind the fire that caused so many casualties in the MV Abhijan-10 passenger launch, identify those responsible and make necessary recommendations for building a risk-free, people-friendly marine communication system.
Those who were found responsible in the investigation are Joynal Abedin, joint director of Marine Safety and Traffic department of Bangladesh Inland and Water Transport Authority (BIWTA), Dinesh Das, its transport inspector, Mohammad Habibur Rahman, inspector of Department of Shipping, Ship Surveyor of the same department Mahbubur Rashid, four owners of the launch-Hamjalal Sheikh, Shamim Ahmed, Russel Ahmed and Ferdous Hasan Rabbi, first-class master Md Riaz Shikdar, second-class master Khalilur Rahman, first-class driver Masum Billah and second-class driver Abul Kalam.
The committee also placed 25 recommendations like bringing those responsible for the incident to book. "Or else, the tendency of negligence in duty will increase alongside accidents," said the committee.
The committee also suggested realising the compensation money from those responsible for the accident, including owners, masters, drivers and government officials.
It also recommended deployment of Ansar members or security guards at the water vessel for ensuring security of the passengers, installation of necessary close circuit cameras in engine rooms, launch entrances and sensitive points like master bridge, inclusion of fire safety issues while designing vessels, building vessels following proper designs, ensuring fire-safety measures and collecting permits from Fire Service Department and steps for examining water vessels by fire service men by the next six months.
It also suggested BIWTA to conduct regular mobile court drives against unfit and unauthorised vessels, transparency in river dredging and removing soil through dredging, bringing all water vessels under BIWTC and BIWTA survey, ensure supply of carbon dioxide (CO2) for extinguishing fire at engine rooms and forming a national probe body for the fair investigation into water vessel accidents.
The death toll from the Jhalakathi launch fire rose to 50 with another victim succumbing to her injuries at a hospital on January 19.
The fire broke out on the Barguna-bound launch carrying some 800 passengers from Dhaka, off the coast of Jhalakathi on December 24.
On December 26, the chief inspector of the Department of Shipping, Shafiqur Rahman, filed a case against eight people, including four co-owners of the launch, under the Marine Act in the Marine Court.
According to the Red Crescent report, some 51 people remained still missing in the incident.
The shipping ministry formed a seven-member committee to investigate the incident, reports UNB.
During its investigation, the Citizens' Probe Body visited the spot and talked to the victims and local people.
Sixteen social organisations, including Paribesh Bachao Andalan (PABA), Nirapod Naupath Bastobayon Andolon (Safe Waterways Implementation Movement) and National Committee for Protection of Waterways, Roads and Railways, jointly formed the committee involving concerned experts, representatives of different classes and professions.