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Thursday, October 27, 2016

No more tragic boat accidents, please!

( Aung Myint Myat )

Thadingyut Festival, a famous festival in Myanmar, is over. People usually come back to their native towns from their works to pay homage to their parents and grandparents during the period of the festival. Most of the places across the country are full of festive activities during the time of the traditional festival. Generally, the Thadingyut Festival carries happiness to Myanmar citizens.

However, I recently saw sad news in the state-owned newspaper during the period of the Thadingyut Festival. The news was that a ferry boat with over 300 people capsized on the river.  Although the passengers on board came back homes for various reasons, they would never think that they would go outside of the world completely. But a tragedy  really happened on the Chindwin River.

The event happened at about 5 am on 15 October (before the full Moon day of Thadingyut). Aung Soe Moe Kyaw (2) ferry carrying more than 300 passengers that is bound from Homalin Township to Monywa Township capsized on the Chindwin River near Myichaungtwin Village in Kani Township.

According to the news, over 70 people died and several were still missing. Among the deaths include basic education teachers. The other passengers could be saved by the relevant authorities and relief teams. However, many lives were taken by the harbinger of death in such one event. They did not have a chance to partake in the festival.

The corpses from the sunken vessel are seen via facebook daily. Some people said that passengers were in the locked cabin of the ferry boat when the ferry sunk. Relatives of the passengers were waiting on the bank of the river. Their expectations were to get the body of their loved ones. At present, the sunken ferry has been salvaged.

Some officials said that the ferry capsized on the river due to overweight of passengers and commodities. A similar accident happened in Rakhine State in the previous year.

On 13 March 2015, Aungtagon (3) ferry capsized in the waters between Ngapathone Island and Myaukkyein Island, about 60 miles south of Myebon Township in Rakhine State and about 100 people lost lives in that event. 

Regarding to the sinking of that ferry boat, some members of parliament discussed at the Hluttaw that Aungtagon (3) ferry boat sunk in the waters due to the weak strength, overweight of passengers and commodities, and lack of life-saving equipment. Finally, an investigation committee was formed and the government took legal actions against the officials from the transportation sector. Nevertheless, the relatives of the dead persons will never get the lives of their love ones again.

The capsizing of Aung Soe Moe Kyaw (2) and Aungtagon (3) ferries occurred in 2015 and 2016. The two events happened under the same reasons- carrying oversized loads and failing to abide by designated principles. In the case of capsizing Aungtagon (3) ferry, the previous government took effective actions against the responsible persons. At this time, we still don’t know how the responsible persons will tackle the problem. If the relevant persons cannot fulfil the wish of the bereaved people, dissatisfaction can be smouldering in their heart.

Concerning with Aung Soe Moe Kyaw (2), U Kyaw Ba Maung, director of the Inland Water Transport Directorate, said: “We have formed an investigation committee. This is to know the cause of sunken ferry whether the coxswain has the responsibility. Also, we will check whether the ferry has life-saving equipment or not. But, the detailed crime case will be inspected by the region government by forming teams. The detailed case is not concerned with us. We are undertaking the case within our authority. Previously, Aungtagon (2) ferry sank. As the capsizing of ferries occurs due to same reasons, it is the weakness of the region government.”

"This event occurred due to carrying of oversized load. This is the weak point of the supervisory committee that administer and control the ferries," said U Than Nyunt, Sagaing Region Minister for Transportation.

"The ferry was overloaded, especially with a cargo of motorbikes. This happened due to the greed. Also, health and education workers rode on board the ship as it was during the Thadingyut Festival. At present, 159 people have been rescued. In reality, the gate should manage at least two ships to carry such an extra heavy load. The event happened due to overweight and strong current," he added.

Whatever the actions will be taken to the responsible persons, it cannot not be fulfilled the expectations of the bereaved families. At the worst, Aungtagon (3) ferry capsized and it was given the reason of weakness. At present, Aung Soe Moe Kyaw (2) ferry has sunken again. In this event "weakness" is not an appropriate excuse. It should be said due to the negligent personnel should be held accountable. 

Words such as "We will check the case and take necessary actions" alone cannot prevent such tragic events from happening again. Actions are needed. Especially, preventive measures should be taken to ensure safe boat ride everywhere.

Under the words –"The ship was overloaded. This is due to the weakness of the respective organizations. We take responsibility for the event"; a jetty on the Chindwin becomes a place to collect the corpses.

Therefore, necessary measurements should be undertaken by the responsible persons to avoid further capsizing of ships on the river.

The Myawady Daily

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