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Last Updated: Wednesday, 23 April, 2003, 15:02 GMT 16:02 UK
Ferry survivors recall disaster
By Alastair Lawson
BBC correspondent in Dhaka

Mother mourns loss of daughter in disaster near Dhaka
The human cost is incalculable
As grieving Bangladeshis come to terms with the tragedy of two almost simultaneous ferry disasters this week, relatives and survivors have been giving dramatic descriptions of the fateful day.

Amid the immense suffering have emerged extraordinary tales of survival.

Perhaps the most dramatic concern two unnamed women, aged 22 and 35, who for six hours were trapped in the upturned ferry on the River Buriganga, near the capital, Dhaka.

"We were in an air bubble with water all around us," one of them said. "We thought there was no way we would live."

The women had just six inches of breathing space.

In desperation, they frantically banged on the hull of the upturned vessel, and to their amazement a rescue team heard them.

A hole was cut in the hull and the pair were saved from drowning.

Shipping Minister Akbar Hossain said this was the first rescue to be made in Bangladesh from an overturned vessel and praised the work of the emergency services.

Trauma

Another woman, Jyosna Begum, describes in the Daily Star newspaper how the ferry suddenly jolted and capsized within a matter of seconds, as passengers screamed for help.

Suddenly the ferry started lurching and turtled with a big bang... I found myself in the middle of the river, but managed to swim ashore
Abdul Latif
survivor

Sloshing through water that was cascading all around her she forced her way through the tarpaulin cover that hung by the side of the deck and swam as hard as she could to safety.

Several others tried to copy her, including her mother. But they did not have the strength and were trapped.

Then there is the case of Hosne Ara who was on board the ferry with her daughter.

She too managed to swim to safety, but her daughter is still missing.

She is so traumatised by the accident that she hasn't yet been able to speak to her husband what happened.

Human error

But perhaps the saddest of all the human tragedies that occurred on the fateful day was that of Osman Gani.

He lost his entire family, including his wife and three daughters.

He is being cared for by friends, so stunned by the disaster that he is barely able to communicate.

The people of Bangladesh have a reputation for being remarkably resilient and long suffering in the face of cyclones, floods and other natural disasters.

But the latest tragedies are principally due to human error, and while the elements can be forgiven, people may not be so tolerant of those who were supposed to be responsible for their safety.




SEE ALSO:
Dhaka's ferry safety failures
22 Apr 03  |  South Asia
Bodies pulled from Bangladesh ferry
14 Apr 03  |  South Asia
Bangladesh ferry death toll rises
07 Apr 03  |  South Asia
Four killed as ferry sinks
17 Mar 03  |  South Asia
Eyewitness: Midnight ferry tragedy
06 May 02  |  South Asia


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