Survivor blames supervisory body for not stopping ferry overloading
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.
Rescue teams search for bodies from the Aung Soe Moe Kyaw 2 ferry.