Though 64 launch accidents earlier took place, killing a few thousand people, since he took office in 2009, Monday’s capsize of MV Pinak-6 in the Padma has a different significance for the shipping minister.
This is the first such accident where Shahjahan Khan has lost his relatives during his successive two terms at the helm of the shipping ministry, responsible for regulating water transportation and ensuring passengers’ safety.
He lost three nieces in the Pinak-6 tragedy. The body of one has been recovered while the other two remained missing and feared dead.
Nusrat Jahan Hira and Fatema Tuz Zohra Swarna, daughters of the minister’s cousin Nurul Haque, were aboard the launch along with their cousin Zannatun Naim Lucky.
They all were returning to Dhaka with Nurul Haque after celebrating Eid at their home in Madaripur.
Though the father managed to swim to the shore, the three girls drowned, said their cousin Soumik, a BBA student of North South University.
Lucky, a final year student of Zhengzhou Medical University in China, posted a selfie of the three cousins with a caption “On the way …Sisters’ journey” on Facebook at 9:45am on their way to Kawrakandi Ferry Ghat.
“This was the last picture of their ultimate journey,” said grieving Soumik on his way back from Mawa yesterday.
Hira was a second year student of Shikder Medical College and Swarna was a higher secondary student of Birshershtha Munshi Abdur Rauf Public College in Dhaka.
Hira’s body was found on Monday and later buried at Kadirpur village of Shibchar, Madaripur.
“We also got the handbag of Swarna from Munshiganj, around 30km away from the scene. But no trace of the bodies of lucky and Swarna,” he said.
Lucky came to Bangladesh from China on July 8 to celebrate Eid with her family, said Soumik, adding that she was chatting with her on Facebook only moments before the accident.
He said he also had met his uncle Shipping Minister Shajahan Khan, who was overseeing the rescue operation at Mawa.
“It is a very regrettable and painful accident,” the minister told The Daily Star yesterday afternoon when he was asked about his reaction.
“Deaths of three of my nieces are a terrible incident for me,” said the minister.
Shahjahan Khan said he would take all possible actions against the culprits. He already had ordered the arrest of the owner of the Pinak-6.
“Leaseholders of the ferry terminals violate our orders for their own interests. I have asked to file cases against the [ferry] terminal leaseholders and the owners of the launch,” he told a private TV channel earlier in the day.
Just nine days ago, Shajahan Khan had claimed that a better arrangement was made to ensure passengers’ safety during this Eid.
Even there would be helicopter patrols to check overloading of the passenger vessels, he had said on July 26.