Sur­vivor blames su­per­vi­sory body for not stop­ping ferry over­load­ing

The Myanmar Times - - Front Page - – Trans­la­tion by Emoon MAUNG ZAW maungzaw@mm­times.com

As res­cue teams con­tin­ued work­ing yes­ter­day to re­cover bod­ies and dredge out the Aung Soe Moe Kyaw 2 ferry af­ter it sank on Oc­to­ber 15, a sur­vivor filed a com­plaint with the re­gion govern­ment al­leg­ing that the com­mit­tee tasked with over­see­ing pri­vate ves­sels knew the boat was badly over­loaded, yet did noth­ing to in­ter­vene.

SUR­VIVORS of a ferry dis­as­ter in Sa­gaing Re­gion that killed at least 50 pas­sen­gers have al­leged that the su­per­vi­sory body tasked with mon­i­tor­ing pri­vate ves­sels knew the boat was over­loaded be­yond ca­pac­ity, but chose not to act. A com­plaint has been lodged with the re­gion govern­ment.

The Aung Soe Moe Kyaw 2 ferry sank on the morn­ing of Oc­to­ber 15 dur­ing a voy­age be­tween Ho­ma­lin and Monywa town­ships. It is thought to have cap­sized af­ter hit­ting a rock on the Chind­win River near Mee Chaung Dwing vil­lage in Kani town­ship.

Sur­vivors es­ti­mated as many as 300 peo­ple were on board at the time, many of them school teach­ers, stu­dents and doc­tors, ac­cord­ing to the re­gion govern­ment.

One of the sur­vivors, U Aung Kyaw Oo, told lo­cal govern­ment of­fi­cials that Ya Ka Sa – a Myan­mar lan­guage acro­nym for the pri­vate ves­sel su­per­vi­sory com­mit­tee – was in­formed that the ferry was over­loaded when it ar­rived at the Phaung Pyin gate. But in re­sponse, the au­thor­ity al­legedly said that ves­sel over­load­ing was not its con­cern. An of­fi­cial from Ya Ka Sa could not be reached in re­sponse to the al­le­ga­tions, but the re­gional govern­ment has ap­pealed to oth­ers on board the ves­sel to come for­ward and as­sist in the on­go­ing in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

Ferry over­load­ing is ex­tremely com­mon in Myan­mar.

“Over­load­ing of pas­sen­gers and cargo is a ter­ri­ble rea­son for a ferry to cap­size. It would be even worse if Ya Sa Ka said over­load­ing was not their con­cern though they knew it was oc­cur­ring [on the Aung Soe Moe Kyaw 2],” said U Than Nyunt Win, Sa­gaing Re­gion’s min­is­ter for elec­tric­ity, in­dus­try and trans­porta­tion.

As the death toll climbed to 53 yes­ter­day, U Than Nyunt Win yes­ter­day an­nounced that com­pen­sa­tion will be paid to the fam­i­lies of the de­ceased.

“We have not yet de­ter­mined the amount of com­pen­sa­tion to be paid for those who died in the ac­ci­dent. This amount will be de­ter­mined by the Sa­gaing Re­gion govern­ment af­ter the in­ves­ti­ga­tion and will be paid by the ferry’s own­ers,” said min­is­ter U Than Nyunt Win.

“We need to ex­am­ine whether any of the pas­sen­gers or the com­pany had in­sur­ance. Cur­rently, there has been no con­tact from the ferry com­pany on the ques­tion of com­pen­sa­tion. They will have to pay once the in­ves­ti­ga­tion is com­plete,” he added.

Five of­fi­cials from the Nay Pyi Taw, Yan­gon and Man­dalay ves­sel trans­porta­tion de­part­ments have been charged with in­ves­ti­gat­ing the ferry ac­ci­dent.

Four crew mem­bers from the vessle have been ar­rested and will face le­gal ac­tion, ac­cord­ing to lo­cal au­thor­i­ties.

“We will take se­ri­ous ac­tion based on the find­ings of the in­ves­ti­ga­tion group,” Min­is­ter Than Nyunt Win said.

The death toll from the tragedy is ex­pected to in­crease in the com­ing days as the ferry is dredged out from the river and brought to shore.

“We are in the process of sal­vaging the ferry though it has not yet been brought to dry land. The num­bers of de­ceased may in­crease once this oc­curs as there may be a num­ber of bod­ies trapped in­side the ferry,” said U Min San Aye, a rep­re­sen­ta­tive of the re­gion’s fire brigade.

The sink­ing of the Aung Soe Moe Kyaw 2 is not the first deadly ferry dis­as­ter to oc­cur on the Monywa-Ho­ma­lin route. In No­vem­ber 2015, 10 pas­sen­gers lost their lives af­ter the Yarzar Tun ferry cap­sized. Sev­eral ferry dis­as­ters have also oc­curred in Rakhine State.

Re­newed calls for tighter reg­u­la­tion of ferry ser­vices have been made in the wake of the lat­est tragedy.

“Fer­ries should be su­per­vised strictly. It seems like ferry op­er­a­tors do not care about their pas­sen­gers as they know that peo­ple have no other choice but to rely on wa­ter trans­porta­tion,” said U Aung Kwaw Oo.

“There are so many vic­tims. Is it worth pas­sen­gers los­ing their lives for the sake of busi­ness?” he added.

PHOTO: AFP

Photo: Sup­plied/Myan­mar Fire Ser­vices De­part­ment

Res­cue teams search for bod­ies from the Aung Soe Moe Kyaw 2 ferry.

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