Five die on crowded ferry as Bangladeshis defy lockdown
May 13 2021 12:29 AM
People on motorcycles rush to board a ferry at Mawa Ferry Terminal in Munshiganj, Bangladesh, to get
People on motorcycles rush to board a ferry at Mawa Ferry Terminal in Munshiganj, Bangladesh, to get home to celebrate Eid al-Fitr, after the government imposed Covid restrictions on long-route public transport.

AFP/ Dhaka

At least five people died in Bangladesh yesterday on an overcrowded ferry carrying more than 1,000 passengers, officials said, as millions defied a coronavirus lockdown to head home for Eid al-Fitr.
Tens of millions of Bangladeshis usually travel home to villages for the festival but this year the government has shut down long-haul buses, trains and boats to prevent the virus from spreading.
But ferries used to carry ambulances and food transportation trucks have remained in use, prompting a dangerous rush of people in recent days hoping to catch a ride on the vessels.
The five people who died were found unconscious on the ferry near Shibchar, southwest of Dhaka, after more than 1,000 people rushed onto the vessel, which is designed to carry mostly buses and cars along with several hundred passengers.
“They passed out in the ferry due to suspected heat stroke. We sent them to a hospital where (they) were declared dead. At least eight were also hospitalised,” police official Chailau Marma said.
“The ferry was overcrowded as more than a 1,000 people boarded it,” he said.
Hafizur Rahman, another police officer, said crowds had built up at ferry stations in the area packed with people hoping to catch a ride home. “A 5km traffic jam of cars and vans queued at Mawa ghat yesterday,” he said, referring to a major river station to cross the Padma river.
Health experts fear the massive movement of people will spread the virus to the country’s nearly 100,000 rural villages, which so far have not seen any major outbreak of coronavirus.
“We are saddened at the way they have gone to their homes,” Health Minister Zahid Maleque said, urging people to wear masks and not wander outside.
Bangladesh’s government says more than 12,000 people have died from the virus while nearly 800,000 people have been infected, but experts fear the figures are a gross undercount.
Crowds of hundreds of thousands thronged the markets of Dhaka yesterday buying gifts for Eid. The government has eased lockdown rules for markets and allowed them to open ahead of the festival, which is their most lucrative time of the year.
“Yes, the number of people here is appalling. But still, it is Eid and some shopping during this time of the year is necessary,” one shopper, Yasin Arafat, said.
Another shopper, Mohamed Bilal, said: “I wish everyone was wearing masks and maintaining social distancing then it would be safer. But many are not following the regulations. They are just roaming whatever pleases their mind.”

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