Long-distance bus services operating at night to transport homebound people
Despite the unimaginable hassles on the roads and health risks, eid holidaymakers have been continuing to leave Dhaka while ignoring the government’s travel restrictions.
People have been seen paying two to three times the regular fare to manage any kind of transport, including private cars, bikes, minibuses, and goods-laden vehicles, to go home on Sunday to celebrate Eid with their family and friends. People were also rushing to buy domestic flight tickets, but the number of flights is much lower than the demand.
Ferry services have been suspended at the Shimulia Ferry Terminal in Munshiganj, as there is excessive pressure of passengers at the river port. Train services remain suspended ahead of Eid.
As the risk of spreading new variants of coronavirus looms large in the country, the government and health experts urged people to refrain from travelling during the Eid holidays to curtail the transmission of the coronavirus.
Long-distance vehicles operating at night
While visiting several inter-district bus terminals at Dhaka’s Mohakhali, Gabtoli, and Sayedabad, Dhaka Tribune found that health guidelines were being ignored on a large scale. Passengers travelled freely and carelessly, using public transports and other vehicles as well as some long-haul buses.
Seeking anonymity, a Bangladesh Road Transport Owners Association leader said: “There is nothing we can do. We have to carry the passengers somehow. We carried passengers last year maintaining hygiene, so why not this year?”
Another leader of the Bangladesh Bus-Truck Association said: “Passengers want to go home and we need to earn ahead of Eid. So we have to drive at night. This benefits both passengers and transport workers.”
Mymensingh-bound bus driver Kamrul Islam said passengers were being taken to Gazipur intersection at first. From there, intercity buses would take passengers to their destinations in Mymensingh, Netrokona, Tangail, Jamalpur, and Sherpur.
Similar pictures were seen in Gabtoli and Sayedabad.
Meanwhile, homebound people said that the government should allow long-distance bus services to reduce their hassle.
A 20-km tailback was created on Dhaka-Aricha highway due to the mad rush of homebound people.
Some long-route passengers said they boarded a local bus from Savar to Amin Bazar. Later, they crossed the bridge on foot and boarded another bus from Gabtoli to their respective destinations.
Arnab Shaha, a student of Jahangirnagar University, said: “I boarded a Savar-bound bus around 10 am. Now it’s 12:45 pm. The bus is stuck at Baliarpur for the last two hours. I have no idea whether I can go home before Iftar.”
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On Dhaka-Chittagong highway, people were seen paying extra fare to go to the surrounding districts using local transports including minibuses and auto rickshaws. Many people were seen travelling on foot due to the lower number of vehicles and high fare.
However, no traffic congestion was reported till 3pm in the afternoon.
On the Dhaka-Tangail highway,the usual rush of traffic ahead of Eid was yet to start. Private cars and some local buses were seen plying on the road.
In Gazipur, a similar situation was seen. However, the local administration fears that the situation may turn to worse in the upcoming days, as RMG factories will close for the Eid vacation from Monday.
Meanwhile, many long-haul buses carrying passengers to northern districts of the country were seized in Sirajganj.
Domestic flights situation
To combat the pressure of passengers, the domestic airlines are now demanding to increase the number of flights.
Airlines and travel agencies are saying that passengers are constantly contacting them for tickets, but they are unable to provide any due to a lack of flights. Almost all tickets for flights from May 10-12 have already been sold out, they said.
According to NovoAir, all tickets for the Dhaka-Barisal route from May 10-14 have been sold out, as well as tickets for the Dhaka-Chittagong route from May 10-12, Dhaka-Saidpur route from May 10-14, and the Rajshahi route from May 10-13.
Also Read - Holidaymakers dart home defying health rules
Biman General Manager (Public Relations) and spokesperson Tahera Khondoker said: "We have applied to increase the number of flights. With permission from the Civil Aviation Authority of Bangladesh (CAAB), some additional flights may be operated during Eid.”
On maintaining health regulations, CAAB Chairman Air Vice-Marshal Md Mofidur Rahman said: “We are monitoring whether the passengers and the airlines are following all the hygiene rules and other instructions.”
He said all measures had been taken at the airports to ensure health and safety. Special precautions have been taken at Jessore Airport to prevent the Indian variant of coronavirus.
Ferry service suspended
The decision to suspend the ferry services was implemented on Sunday afternoon, Shimulia Ferry Terminal Manager Shafayat Ahmed confirmed the matter to Dhaka Tribune.
He said: "In coordination with the Munshiganj district commissioner, the superintendent of police and the upazila executive, we have stopped the ferry service since afternoon. No vehicles are allowed to enter the port. The good-laden vehicles crossing at night have also been put on hold.”
Saying that even the ambulances and hearses were also being diverted, Shafayat said the suspension will continue until further instructions.
Following the notice on the suspension of ferry services, around 5,000-6,000 passengers were still waiting at the terminal, Shimulia Ferry Terminal Traffic Police Inspector (TI) said.
He said there were also about 360 good-laden vehicles waiting at the wharf since morning.
Earlier in the morning, three ferries had left the ferry terminal for emergency services. Passengers have been paying extra fares to vessels in the vicinity of the terminal to cross the river as ferry services are suspended.
A total of 18 trawlers have been seized by naval police from different areas since Sunday morning.
Our reporter Mamun Abdullah and correspondents Shamima Rita in Narayanganj, Abdullah Al Numan in Tangail, and Raihanul Islam Akand in Gazipur contributed to this report.