A shipping ministry probe body, following primary investigation, has said that the engine of MV Abhijan-10 – a launch that recently caught fire and killed over 40 people – was faulty.
"We went to examine the launch very closely yesterday (25 December). Some faults were found in its engine," Tofail Ahmed, joint secretary of the ministry and also the probe committee head, told The Business Standard Sunday.
"We think the fire may have started from the engine room and spread quickly."
"The investigation is ongoing. Nothing can be said for certain until it is over," the joint secretary added.
When asked about the possibilities of a gas cylinder explosion inside the launch's kitchen, he said "The gas cylinder was found to be intact.
"There would have been loud noises and the kitchen and its surroundings completely destroyed if it had exploded. But nothing such happened."
"Besides, we have interviewed eyewitnesses and locals. They couldn't provide any information supporting the gas cylinder blast theory."
"We have found some irregularities in the launch's operations," the probe body head said adding that someone else was operating launch instead of the designated master during the incident.
"We have also learned that the launch collided with the shore on its way. We now are going to Barguna to speak with the victims. This will hopefully help us to come to a conclusion fast," the joint secretary furthered.
At least 42 people are still missing since the fire accident, said Jhalakathi Sadar police station Officer-in-Charge (OC) Khalikur Rahman while speaking to the press the same day.
"Rescue efforts are underway," he added.
Meanwhile, fire service officials, while seeking anonymity, said that the launch did not have a proper fire extinguishing system which led to a large number of fatalities.
The devastating fire accident left at least 41 people charred to death and scores injured.
The incident took place around 3am on Friday while the launch was on its way to Barguna from Dhaka.
The vessel was reportedly carrying about 1,000 passengers, according to witnesses and passengers.
Passengers who escaped from the fire incident said the fire broke out from the canteen and engine room and continued for hours.
Within five to 10 minutes, the flames engulfed the vessel.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina yesterday expressed deep shock and sorrow over the casualties in the fire incident.
Besides, Khalid Mahmud Chowdhury, state minister for shipping, also expressed deep condolences over the deaths of the launch passengers.
The state minister visited the spot and announced that the Bangladesh Integrated Water Resources Assessment will provide Tk1.5 lakh in financial aid to the families of each of those killed in Friday's launch fire.
Besides, the Jhalakathi district administration announced to provide Tk25,000 to each deceased's family.