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Dhaka Tribune

Thousands continue Eid travel despite govt's Covid-19 restrictions

People continue to defy social distancing rules, while some are even losing their lives by travelling on trucks and other vehicles

Update : 19 May 2020, 01:56 PM

Even though the government has suspended all types of public transport and warned people not to move from their locations, thousands continued to defy the restrictions on Tuesday and started for their hometowns to celebrate the Eid-ul-Fitr with family.

But their travel, which increases the risk of more community transmission of the novel coronavirus, came to a halt in the middle of the day when Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Corporation (BIWTC) suspended ferry services until further notice on several major routes around the country.

The move, announced through a press release on in the afternoon, was made as the extremely severe cyclone Amphan is set to make landfall on Bangladesh on Wednesday afternoon or evening.

The closed ferry routes include Paturia-Doulatdia, Shimulia-Kathalbari, Chandpur-Shariatpur, Bhola-Lakshmipur, and Bheduria-Laharhat.

The government had suspended all kinds of public transports from March 26, in line with an unofficial shutdown wrapped in a general holiday wrapper that is in place to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus, which has killed 370 people around the country until Tuesday.

Last week, as number of coronavirus cases kept going up, the holiday or shutdown was extended till May 30, which covers the Eid holidays at the end of the Ramadan.

Under the circumstances, and in the absence of public transport, people have been going for unconventional travelling options, such as goods-laden trucks, private vehicles and other smaller vehicles, to reach their destinations, putting their and their families lives at risk

The rush for village homes, defying the government directives, from Dhaka city increased on Monday, as thousands of people were seen thronging different ferry terminals on the city outskirts.

The scenes at the same spots were also somewhat similar on Tuesday. 

Stranded on the way

After the ferry services were suspended, several thousands of people were seen waiting at Shimulia terminal in Munshiganj to cross the river in the afternoon.

Some said they left their houses in the city for good and had nowhere to go but their village homes.

The people gathered at the ferry terminal had walked miles while fasting with the hope of reaching their homes.

However, they were later sent back by special arrangements. By afternoon, four buses had left for Dhaka with the passengers.

But more vehicles were seen arriving at the terminal at the same time.

At least 200 goods-laden trucks were stranded at the terminal and countless vehicles were seen waiting at the expressway nearby at the time.

The travellers, who came from different areas of Dhaka and Narayanganj, were seen waiting in deplorable condition, defying all social distancing rules that is mandatory to prevent coronavirus transmission.

Mawa traffic police outpost OC Helal Uddin said: "People are still arriving at the ferry terminal from various locations. But the ferry services are shut down.

"Only one ferry engaged in emergency services has taken an ambulance, which was carrying a dead body, across the river."

Md Foisal, assistant manager of Shimulia terminal, confirmed that the ferry services were halted from 3pm Monday (after the huge pressure of passengers was faced by at least 14 ferries).

With the BIWTC suspending all services until further notice over cyclone Amphan, it was uncertain how long the ferries will remain inactive.

He added that some passenger microbus and private cars were also sent back from the terminal.

However, the ferry services on the Paturia-Daulatdia route in Manikganj, which was halted by BIWTC on 11am Monday had resumed at 6pm; only to be suspended again at 6am on Tuesday.

Zillur Rahman, the BIWTCA deputy general manager at Paturia Terminal, said the rush of vehicles had increased early in the day so only two to three ferries were operating to carry emergency goods across.

However, the crowd of homebound people started increasing later in the morning, and as the situation was going out of control the ferry services were halted altogether.

He also said the suspension would remain in force until further notice. The BIWTC's suspension order over cyclone Amphan came later in the day.

Road accidents kill 7

Meanwhile, at least seven people were killed in road accidents in different districts on Tuesday, as they were travelling to family homes via alternative long-route vehicles.

In Sirajganj, four people died after the truck, carrying soybean oil, they were travelling on toppled over at Bangabandhu Bridge on the Dhaka-Rajshahi Highway.

Hatikumrul highway police station OC Khayrul Islam said: “Even though they have been warned time and again, people are still travelling on trucks risking their lives.”

In Moulvibazar, a microbus lost control at Gobindobati area of Rajnagar upazila, killing two people and injuring nine others. 

In Habiganj, a convict out on bail could not even reach his home as the CNG-run auto-rickshaw he was on was crushed by a truck near the jail gate.

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