Launch terminals across the country on Monday witnessed a huge rush of passengers because launch services resumed after 59 hours of suspension due to cyclone Bulbul. Such a rush is usually seen during Eid festivals.
Launch services and other boat services started again this morning as soon as the Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Authority (BIWTA) issued a green signal.
Md Abu Jafor Howlader, the director (marine and safety) of the BIWTA, said, "We permitted them to restart their trips as there is no risk in the waterways now. Transportation services are available on 42 waterways, and we observed a large number of people rushing to terminals across the country," he said.
On a visit to the capital's Sadarghat Launch Terminal, this correspondent saw hundreds of people bound for Barishal, Chandpur and Shariatpur thronging the terminal after the long disruption in launch operations.
"I had an emergency task in my hometown but had to wait until today [Monday] because there was no way to go to Bhola in the stormy weather. I have already incurred a big loss because of the delay. Nevertheless, I must go today," said Bhola-bound Masud Alam.
Sufia Khatun, a middle aged woman bound for Barishal, said she came to Dhaka to spend some time with her son. "I had planned to go back on Thursday, but had to cancel that because there was no launch service. So, I am going today."
Jamal Uddin, the supervisor of Betua-bound launch Tashrif-3, said the route is risky enough in normal times. "In bad weather it became even riskier. So we were waiting for permission from the BIWTA. We will start our trip at 5:30pm [Monday]."
He said around 1,000-1,200 passengers thronged the launch terminal on the very first day, almost double the usual number.
Md Shahnewaz, a BIWTA inspector at the Sadarghat Launch Terminal, said, "We knew there would be a large number of passengers today [Monday] because they had been waiting for a long time to go to their destinations.
So, we have taken extra measures to tackle the situation."
"Around 13 launches and some other boats left Sadarghat Launch Terminal for Chandpur, Patuakhali, Barishal and Shariatpur in the morning. The other water vessels will go to their destinations from the afternoon," he said.
The launch terminal in Barishal and others across the country also experienced a similar rush of passengers.
Saidur Rahman Rintu, the vice-president of the Barishal Launch Owners Association, said such a large number of passengers at the terminal at this time of the year was unbelievable, and that it would be difficult to carry the passengers with only eight launches.
Uzzal Hawlader, the supervisor of the Hakimuddin Launch Ghat in Bhola, said they asked for cooperation from the local administration to tackle the situation, which was likely to worsen because of the large number of passengers.
"We repeatedly instructed everyone not to board overcrowded launches. Some people even returned home after seeing the crowd," he said.