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Saturday, 25 August 2012

The fearless ferrymen of Dhaka's Buriganga river

The article extract below is from the BBC news website. Follow this link: to read the full article which gives an excellent insight into the scale of poverty and hardship for some people in Bangladesh:

25 August 2012 Last updated at 01:30

Rush hour in the Bangladeshi capital sees thousands of Dhaka's commuters boarding small wooden boats to cross the busy waters of the Buriganga river, one of the most dangerous waterways on Earth, especially for the ferrymen.

"To do this you need all your strength and courage. If you lose your bravery then you are finished."

Ferryman Muhammed Abdul Loteef takes passengers and goods across a quarter-mile (400m) stretch of the Buriganga river every day.

It is hard physical work in temperatures of up to 40C - especially for a 70-year-old.

There are few bridges across the Buriganga river. For the 25,000 people who commute every day between the city centre and the residential areas on the other side, the sampans - small wooden boats, powered and steered by one oar - are a lifeline.

The ferrymen must negotiate huge gravel barges, cargo ships and passenger boats, which dominate the river.

"Every day here one or two boats capsize," says Loteef.

"Sometimes small boats go under the big boats and people die."

There are no emergency services here. If there is an accident, it is up to the other boatmen to come to the rescue.

One of Loteef's friend's boats was hit by a launch a few months ago, when it was fullly laden with nine passengers.

"Of them, I rescued eight," he said. "They found the (other) body three days later," he says.

"It is our duty to save our passengers. Sometimes we risk our lives to save passengers."

For that dedication, there is not much financial reward. It costs two taka (just over £0.01 or under $0.02) to cross the river.

To make enough money to support his family, Loteef has to make the crossing more than 60 times a day, and sometimes works into the night.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

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