Deaths of students in road accident cast pall of gloom over Bangladesh

08:24, July 13, 2011      

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A pal of gloom has descended over Mirsharai sub-district of Bangladesh's Chittagong district, 242 km southeast of capital Dhaka, after a horrendous road accident happened on Monday afternoon killed at least 44 school children who were returning home in a rejoicing mood as their team won a soccer game.

A sizable number of cross-sections of people including the government functionaries rushed to victims' homes in villages of the sub-district to mourn their untimely demises, Iftekhar Hossain, officer-in-Charge of Mirsarai Police Station, told Xinhua over mobile phone on Tuesday.

In one of the worst tragedies in Bangladesh's history, he said, "The tragic road accident which killed at least 44 children have stunned and cast a great darkness over the whole Mirsharai."

Hossain said deceased's families, friends, teachers and locals, wearing black badges, thronged the premises where a rally was organized Tuesday morning as part of the three-day mourning program announced by the local administration. They were in a state of deep shock, he added.

Bangladesh's Education Minister Nurul Islam Nahid and Industries Minister Dilip Barua, among others, visited the deceased children's homes to meet their relatives to condole the deaths. They expressed deep condolence at the deaths and at one point burst into tears.

They meanwhile pledged to erect a monument after the memories of the students of Abu Torab High School at Mirsarai.

The Bangladeshi government, however, ordered all academic institutions throughout the country to mourn Wednesday the 44 school students who were killed in a road accident, wear black badges and say prayer.

Earlier, Bangladesh's President Zillur Rahman, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and Opposition leader Begum Khaleda Zia condoled deaths of the students in the road mishap.

The students aged between 10 and 18 suffered the tragic deaths as a truck carrying them veered off the road and plunged into rain water filled ditch when its driver lost control over the steering at about 1:30 p.m. local time on Monday. The students of local Abu Torab School were returning home after participating in an inter-school football tournament in which the educational institute becomes champion.

The accident happened after the trucker lost his focus on the road while talking on his cellphone. "The man did not listen to repeated warnings from us and kept talking on the phone," a survivor, Emran, student of class 10 of Abu Torab High School, was quoted as saying in a report of leading English newspaper The Daily Star.

Some other local residents alleged that the truck was overloaded and was driven by a helper, not the driver, adding that the driver escaped after the accident and is being sought for arrest.

The South Asian nation has one of the highest fatality rates for road accidents in the world due mainly to shoddy highways, poorly maintained vehicles, violation of traffic rules by inept drivers and lack of monitoring of the traffic department.

According to a recent study of Accident Research Center of Bangladesh University of Engineering Technology, some 10,000 to 12,000 people are killed in road accident in Bangladesh every year, of which about 75 percent fatalities occur in rural areas.

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