Southern Bangladesh and West Bengal occupy the world’s largest delta, where a heavily indented coastline – the Mouths of the Ganges – is backed by the vast mangrove swamps of the Sunderbans and endless paddy fields threaded by waterways. Summer monsoon floods make roads impassable; ferries are then the only link between towns and villages.
The triple-decked ferry Nasrin embarked on its regular journey from Dhaka down the River Padma to the coastal towns of Lalmohan and Bhola. Near the ferry terminal at Chandpur, the River Meghna joins the main stream and the confluence of rain-swollen rivers produces an area of turbulence, always hazardous to shipping during the monsoon. On the night of July 8 2003, as the Nasrin entered this perilous stretch of water, one of her engines faltered. The fierce cross currents caught and spun the vessel, and it turned over.
Passengers, many of whom had settled down for the night, struggled to escape by climbing onto the roof and diving into the river. Suddenly, the ferry nose-dived and disappeared beneath the deep, wild waters. Local fishermen fought the currents to pick up swimmers; survivors and villagers on shore began a long, grim vigil. Navy and coastguard boats searched for survivors and for the sunken vessel as the monsoon rains pelted down. Some bodies were recovered downriver, but hundreds were never found.
Bangladeshi ferries rarely issue tickets and keep no record of passengers. On this journey, a whole boatload of travellers had swarmed onto the Nasrin when another ferry was cancelled, adding to the normal overcrowding. About 200 people survived, but many were trapped in the sunken ship and many more disappeared without trace. Staff at Dhaka’s ferry terminal were ‘relocated’, with assurances that ‘more efficient personnel’ would be employed.
When was the Sinking of the Ferry Nasrin: July 8 2003
Where was the Sinking of the Ferry Nasrin: Near Chandpur, Bangladesh
What was the Sinking of the Ferry Nasrin death: Probably over 400
You should know: Ferry accidents are all too common on the rivers of Bangladesh. A ferry which sank in the same stretch of river as the Nasrin in 1994 has never been found.