Bomb blast injures 17 people on ferry crossing the Yangon River

No group claimed responsibility for the explosion, which Myanmar's junta says was caused by a hand-made mine.
By RFA Burmese
2022.12.19
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Emergency responders put people injured in the bomb blast on the Yangon-Dala ferry, Monday, Dec. 19, 2022 in Myanmar. Credit: Citizen journalist

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Injured passengers wait for treatment at the scene of the bomb explosion on the Cherry 2 ferry sailing from Yangon to Dala township in Myanmar on Monday, Dec. 18, 2022. Credit: Citizen journalist

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The scene of the explosion on the Cherry 2 ferry sailing from Yangon to Dala Township on Monday, Dec. 18, 2022. Credit: Citizen journalist

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Injured passengers wait for treatment at the scene of the bomb explosion on the Cherry 2 ferry sailing from Yangon to Dala township in Myanmar on Monday, Dec. 18, 2022. Credit: Citizen journalist

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The scene of the explosion on the Cherry 2 ferry sailing from Yangon to Dala Township on Monday, Dec. 18, 2022. Credit: Citizen journalist

UPDATED AT 5:30 p.m. ET ON 12-19-2022

A suspected mine blast on a crowded ferry in Yangon injured 17 passengers over the weekend, many of them seriously, according to the junta's information group.

The Cherry 2 ferry, which carries around 30,000 passengers each day between downtown Yangon's Pansodan Jetty and Dala township, was crossing the Yangon River on Sunday night when an explosion on the lower deck ripped through the vessel.

The injured – 15 men and two women aged between 18 and 40 -- were rushed to Yangon General Hospital for emergency treatment.

“The explosion was very loud. I was 200 yards (183 meters) from the ferry boat and I was trembling,” a member of the volunteer rescue team, who did not want to be named for safety reasons, told RFA.

“Most of the passengers were hit in their legs, and there was excessive bleeding. All of them were sent to the General Hospital by the rescue team members to stop the bleeding. There were no deaths.”

Some local news organizations reported that five of the injured bled to death on Monday morning but Yangon General Hospital Director Dr. Thida Hla confirmed to RFA that no one died.

The junta’s information group told RFA the ferry left Yangon’s Pansodan jetty heading to Dala at 6:40 p.m. on Sunday. It said a handmade mine exploded when the ferry was 50 meters (164 feet) from the shore, injuring 17 people.

No group has claimed responsibility for the blast. Local anti-junta guerrilla group Yangon People’s Brigade issued a statement condemning any act that harmed the public and expressing sympathy for the innocent victims.

The bustling Pansodan-Dala ferry service provides a key commuter route to downtown Yangon for the more than 180,000 residents of Dala township and its neighboring villages. 

Passengers from Dala include blue-collar workers, as well as street merchants traveling with plastic chairs, pots and pans and improvised tent material to set up daily roadside food stalls in the commercial capital. Food retailers roam the ferries each morning selling breakfasts of boiled eggs and spicy onion-chili chutney.

On hot summer days, enterprising vendors travel back and forth selling sliced watermelon, while novice Buddhist monks beg for alms from passengers and medicine hawkers offer everything from snake-bite remedies to erectile dysfunction drugs. At certain times of the year, even seagulls fly the route, soaring close to the ferries to accept tossed scraps of food from passengers. 

A Dala resident, who also requested anonymity, told RFA locals from Dala, Twantay and Kungyangon townships take the larger Cherry boat from Yangon as it only costs the equivalent of 9 cents, compared with small boats that cost 47 cents. He said he did not support the bombing of civilian targets by guerrilla groups or the junta.

“I condemn the bombing of such a place, whether it was carried out by a People’s Defense Force or the State Administration Council. There must be accountability for this incident,” he said.

On Oct. 19, 2022, multiple bomb blasts at a parcel receiving center in Yangon’s Insein Prison killed eight people, including family members of political prisoners and prison workers, and injured 18 others. A relatively unknown guerrilla group, the Special Task Agency of Burma, or STA, claimed responsibility.

In July two people died and nine more were injured in a bomb blast near the Dagon Center, one of Yangon's busiest shopping malls. No group claimed responsibility for the explosion. 

Translated by RFA Burmese. Written in English by Mike Firn.

This story has been updated to include details of the Pansodan-Dala ferry service and the commuters who rely on it.

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