A massive fire which engulfed a crowded river ferry in Bangladesh early Friday, has left not less than 39 people dead and 70 injured, maritime officials in the Asian country have confirmed.
Many of the surviving passengers were said to have leapt from the vessel into the cold waters to escape the blaze.
It took 15 fire engines two hours to control the fire and another eight to cool down the vessel, senior fire officer Kamal Uddin Bhuiyan, who led the rescue operation, said.
“The inferno broke out around 3am on Friday on the MV Avijan-10, which was carrying 800 passengers, many of whom were traveling to visit family and friends for the weekend, Bhuiyan said.
“I was sleeping on the deck and woke up hearing screams and a loud noise,” a survivor Anisur Rahman told reporters, adding that he saw smoke coming from the back of the ferry.
“I jumped into the freezing water of the river in the thick fog, like many other passengers, and swam to the riverbank,” Rahman said.
READ ALSO: 26 killed in Bangladesh boat crash
Police said rescuers recovered 37 bodies from the river, while two people died from burn injures on the way to the hospital.
“All of the 70 injured were hospitalized, including some with severe burns”, a police officer said.
The ferry was traveling from Dhaka, the capital, to Barguna, about 250 kilometers (155 miles) to the south.
The fire started off the coast of Jhalokati district on the Sugandha River, toward the end of the journey,
He added that the fire may have started in the engine room as the government has set up two committees to investigate the blaze and ordered them to report their findings in three days.
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