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44 schoolboys die in highway tragedy

Staff  Correspondent : At least 44 schoolboys were killed and 15 others injured when a pick-up truck carrying them veered off the road and plunged into a ditch at Mirsarai, 30 miles from the port city, on Monday afternoon, the police said.

The children, all primary school students aged between 12 and 14 years, were returning home after watching a football match when the highway tragedy, one of the worst in recent years, took place at about 1:00pm on Dhaka-Chittagong highway. ‘We have confirmed 44 deaths after the search,’ said Chittagong deputy commissioner Faiz Ahmed. 

 Relatives took away some bodies after the accident, he added. The administration organised a mass funeral of 38 dead at Abu Torab school ground as the news of the tragedy sent shock waves across the country.

‘It’s a great tragedy that caused so many child casualties,’ said police superintendent ZA Morshed.

Navy and army teams joined the rescue operation launched by the police and fire service aided by local people who thronged the spot in their hundreds.

The schoolchildren were returning home after watching a soccer match at Mirsarai stadium, the police said.

Locals said the primary school level football tournament was organised by the upazila administration.

The vehicle’s driver Mafizuddin fled the scene after the accident, the police said.

Ifteker Hasan, officer-in-charge of Mirsarai police station, said rescuers had pulled 24 bodies from inside the sunken wreck in the ditch near Abu Torab bazaar till 5:00pm when the 4-hour search was called off.

‘Two children succumbed to their injuries after their relatives took them home from the spot. Five others died in Chittagong Medical College Hospital,’ he said adding that the ill-fated pick-up van was salvaged from the ditch.

Police have been sent to nearby villages to know if any more victims died, he said.

Senior police officials, including the DIG and SP of Chittagong, visited the spot after the tragedy.

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