The Department of Shipping on Sunday filed a case against the owners of MV Abhijan-10, its launch masters and drivers after a probe committee confirmed that an engine fault had led to the fire originating on the ill-fated vessel.
Chief Inspector of the department Md Shafiqur Rahman filed the case under the Inland Shipping Ordinance against four owners of the launch company Messer's Al Araf & Company – Hamzalal Sheikh, Md Shamim Ahmed, Md Russell Ahmed and Ferdous Hasan Rabbi; the in-charge of the launch Master Md Riaz Sikder; Second Master Md Khalilur Rahman; and drivers Abul Kalam and Md Masum Billah, states the case file.
The case statement also mentioned that there was a lack of adequate fire extinguishers, lifebuoys, sandboxes, and buckets in the launch. It added that there were also many diesel-filled drums and cylinder gas cookers, which went against sections 56, 66, 69, and 70 of the ISO act.
The charges were filed after a preliminary investigation report was submitted by the shipping department's Barishal inspector.
A supplementary case will be filed after a probe body, formed over the incident, submits its report.
Sources at the shipping department said that the launch's fitness certificate, registration and master-driver's certificate would be suspended as per the law.
Meanwhile, Special Metropolitan Magistrate Joynab Begum of the Marine Court issued arrest warrants against eight people, including the four owners of the launch, following a case filed over the incident on Sunday afternoon.
Another case was filed with Barguna Judge Court against 25 accused by Nazmul Islam, the chairman of Baliatoli Union in Barguna sadar.
The court ordered the Barguna sadar police station officer-in-charge to register the case, confirmed Nazmul.
Furthermore, a case of unnatural death had been filed with Jhalakathi police station over the incident which has left 42 dead so far.
Earlier, Tofayel Ahamed, the head of the probe committee formed by the shipping ministry, told reporters, "We have primarily found some faults in the engine and assumed that the faults might have led to the fire which later spread all over the launch within a short time."
The committee also began recording accounts by relatives of the victims and eyewitnesses on Sunday morning at Barguna Circuit House.
Meanwhile, the number of missing people rose to 44, according to information by the Barguna and Jhalakathi district administrations.
"The launch did not have enough fire extinguisher arrangements to fight the fire," said Lieutenant Colonel Zillur Rahman, the director of the Fire Service Defence and Rescue, after visiting the launch on Sunday.
"If the launch had proper equipment to fight the fire, it could be controlled and many lives would have been saved," he said.
He also added that the launch staffers might not have been trained to fight fires, adding that the blame lay with the launch master and his assistants.