72 Confirmed Dead in Myanmar Ferry Capsize
Salvors have raised the wreck of the ferry Aung Soe Moe Kyaw 2, which capsized on the Chindwin River (or Ning-thi River) in northern Myanmar last week. Officials said that the confirmed death toll now totals to 72 people.
Over 150 survived the accident, but dozens more remain missing. Officials believe that the 150-passenger boat was loaded to twice its rated capacity.
The vessel's captain and owner are also missing, local media report.
Many of the deceased were teachers and students. A spokesperson for the Myanmar Teachers’ Federation told Eleven Myanmar that “the officials’ carelessness caused this tragedy. The boat was overloaded and still managed to travel through four checkpoints. Why did the authorities allow it? Moreover the boat owner is not held responsible for the incident.”
One survivor also informed investigators that the regulatory body for ferries was aware of the overloading conditions but allowed the vessel to continue its journey.
Regional authorities promised a thorough investigation and the prosecution of any individuals found responsible.
U Than Nyunt Win, the region's minister for transport, told Myanmar Times that it would be especially tragic if regulators had known of the overloading in advance. “We will take serious action based on the findings of the investigation group,” he said.
Ferry accidents are common in the developing nations of Southeast Asia, where relatively loose regulation and thin operating margins can incentivize overloading. Riverine transportation is the only option for travel in many areas of Myanmar, and advocates say that the local population is dependent on the practices of ferry operators.
Just last November, a ferry on the same route on the Chindwin River went down, claiming ten lives.