Boat accidents are fairly common in Myanmar, especially in the rainy season. Travelling and transporting goods by boats are popular, especially in the Ayeyawady Delta, because of the low cost and the inaccessibility of many areas by road.
Myanmar is in the midst of the monsoon season, which begins in mid-May and usually ends in mid-October.
The season often generates high winds and flash storms in the delta and coastal areas.
Hence, the Myanmar Maritime Police Force has raised awareness on safety of boats in the rainy season, and it has alerted pilots nationwide to follow the do’s and don’ts, in an attempt to prevent tragedies.
The transportation authorities have issued warnings and instated rules and regulations against driving at high speed and overloading in the rivers, along with fines and sentences for violations.
In October, 2017, over 70 people, including many teachers and students, died when their packed vessel capsized in the Chindwin River and overloading was blamed for the accident.
In April 2017, at least 20 people were killed when a boat carrying scores of wedding guests collided with a river barge at night in Pathein, Ayeyawady Region. Both boats were unlit when they collided in the middle of the river.
Earlier that year, in April, at least 21 people, including nine children, died after their boat sank off the coast of Myanmar’s western state of Rakhine.
Around 60 people died in March 2015, when their ferry went down in the same treacherous waters off Rakhine.
The accident has raised safety concerns for passengers on waterways.
One may question whether the accidents were preventable or not. There were not enough life jackets for passengers, the navigational equipment was unreliable, the weather conditions were harsh, the ferries failed to follow the navigation rules for the safety of the passengers — many reasons can be provided for the mishaps. But, the direct cause of ferry accidents is almost always human error and negligence.
It has been found that poor maintenance and overcrowding, drunk-driving, and flouting of safety rules increase the chances of a boat capsizing.
If boat operators do not obey rules and regulations and the authorities do not enforce them, accidents on the rivers will never cease.
If everyone respects the law and follows it strictly, there won’t be such sad accidents.
Our attitude needs to change. Safety on our waterways is a necessity.