DHAKA – A special Bangladesh anti-crime unit on Wednesday arrested the owner of a ferry that sank in a river killing about 110 people, the first time authorities took such action in a country where shipping accidents with heavy loss of life are common.
The ferry capsized and sank during bad weather on Aug 4 in a river swelled by monsoon rain about 30 km (18 miles) south of the capital, Dhaka. The vessel had a capacity for 85 passengers but was crammed with about 250 people returning to work in Dhaka after spending the Eidul Fitr holiday in their villages.
Authorities had lodged murder charges against the owner, Abu Bakar Siddique, 60, and five other people including the captain, for overloading, operating the ferry with an expired license and disregarding the river authority's instructions not to sail because of bad weather. Siddique went into hiding but was caught early on Wednesday in the port city of Chittagong.
"Acting on a tip-off, he was arrested during a raid on a house," Mufti Mahmud Khan, legal and media director of the interior ministry's elite anti-crime unit, the Rapid Action Battalion, told Reuters. About 48 bodies were recovered from the river but search operations were called off this week with at least 62 people still missing.
Low-lying Bangladesh, with extensive inland waterways and slack safety standards, has an appalling record of ferry accidents, with casualties at times running into the hundreds.