Woman’s search for parents, children missing in launch fire highlights the agony of victims’ families

The 50-year old Fatema heard about the retrieval of an unknown youth’s body, almost her son’s age, on Monday and rushed to Jhalakathi docks.

The woman’s frantic search for the five members of the family since Friday morning highlights the agony of the relatives of the people who are still missing after a devastating fire killed at least 38 people on board the vessel in the wee hours of Friday.

Relatives of those who went missing are combing all possible places in search of their loved ones. Many of them, including Fatema, travelled to Jhalakathi on Monday.

Her eldest son Obaidul is 30 years old. He was on board the launch with his grandparents and sisters Kulsum 22, and Ayesha, 19.

Fatema said he had sent the three siblings to Dhaka to bring her father Muzaffar Hawlader and mother Amena Begum, who recently returned from Saudi Arabia. The elderly couple lived in the Gulf kingdom as expatriates.

The authorities have confirmed 38 deaths, all occurred on the day of the disaster as the firefighters battled the inferno for about three hours into morning.

“They [Fatema’s children] were returning home with their grandparents and were supposed to arrive on Friday morning, but they didn’t,” Fatema said, adding that the family began searching for the five members when the news of the fatal fire spread.            

More than 50 other victims were rescued and hospitalised with burn injuries. Some others jumped off the decks of the three-storey vessel and swam ashore to flee the inferno.

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The families of the victims have reported 41 people missing, police said.

Police’s Criminal Investigation Department or CID began collecting DNA samples from relatives on Monday for cross-matching with the dead passengers whose bodies could not be identified.

Relatives have identified nine victims. The mortal remains of the others were so burnt that the authorities buried them in a mass grave.

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