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Massive ferry fire kills at least 39 in southern Bangladesh

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Massive ferry fire kills at least 39 in southern Bangladesh

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DHAKA, Bangladesh (AP) – A massive fire swept through a crowded river ferry in southern Bangladesh early Friday, killing at least 39 people and injuring 72, as passengers jumped off the ship and swam to shore, said officials.

The fire erupted around 3 a.m. on the MV Avijan-10, which was carrying 800 passengers off the coast of Jhalokati district on the Sugandha River, they said.

Fire officer Kamal Uddin Bhuiyan, who led the rescue operation, said the fire may have started in the engine room. He said 15 fire trucks took nearly two hours to bring the blaze under control.

The ferry was brought ashore after the fire was extinguished and firefighters spent an additional eight hours cooling it down, he said.

The ferry was traveling from Dhaka, the capital, to Barguna, about 250 kilometers (155 miles) to the south. Firefighter Fazlul Haque said it was packed with passengers as many returned home to spend the weekend with their families and friends.

He said rescuers recovered 39 bodies. The 72 injured passengers were all hospitalized, including seven severely burned who were taken to a hospital in Dhaka in critical condition.

As the fire ravaged the crowded ferry, many passengers jumped into the river to escape the flames.

“I was sleeping on the deck and woke up hearing screams and a loud noise. To my shock, I saw thick smoke coming out of the back of the ferry. I jumped into the icy water of the river in the thick fog like many other passengers and swam to the shore, ”survivor Anisur Rahman told reporters.

The government set up two committees to investigate the blaze and ordered them to report their findings within three days.

Ferry accidents are common and are often blamed on overcrowding and lax rules in Bangladesh, which is crisscrossed by around 130 rivers. Ferries are a prominent form of transport, especially in the southern and northeastern regions.

In April, 25 people died after a ferry collided with another ship and capsized outside Dhaka.

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