DHAKA, Jan. 4 (Xinhua) -- Along with confrontational politics, Bangladesh witnessed thousands of casualties from natural and man- made disasters in 2012, casting a shadow on its development.
In one of the worst tragedies in Bangladesh's history late in the year, at least 112 workers of a factory at Ashulia on the outskirts of capital Dhaka were killed.
Dozens of workers also sustained injuries as a fire on Nov. 24, claimed to be "an act of sabotage," raged through the eight-storey Tazreen Fashion Limited, where global brands, including U.S. retail giant Wal-Mart, were manufactured.
Data from the Fire Service and Civil Defense Directorate (FSCDD) showed that about 200 people lost their lives in 6,659 fire incidents in Bangladesh during the year, with hundreds being injured.
The Tazreen tragedy happened after a boat with over 110 passengers capsized on Nov. 7 in the Bay of Bengal near Shah Porir Island in Teknaf close to Bangladesh's southeastern border with Myanmar, leaving an unknown number of people missing.
Rescuers said those passengers were going to Malaysia in search of work.
A week earlier another motorboat with 135 illegal migrants on board capsized in the Bay of Bengal, leaving dozens of people missing. Their destination was also Malaysia.
According to the FSCDD, some 1,000 people were killed and about 3,000 others injured in hundreds of road and sea accidents including a fatal ferry collision in March which claimed 138 lives.
Ferry accidents, often blamed on overcrowding, faulty vessels and lax rules, are common in Bangladesh, which also has one of the highest fatality rates of road accidents in the world mainly due to shoddy highways, poorly maintained vehicles, violation of traffic rules by abusive drivers and a lack of monitoring of the traffic department.
Officials say the death toll in man-made disasters such as fire, road and waterway accidents in 2012 could be much higher if the figures from other sources, including those from the police, are added up.
"The accuracy of our statistics is in a very tough position. But it can be assumed. According to police and various data, every day the number of fatalities in road accidents varies from 15 to 50. On average the figure is around 30," said Hasib Mohammed Ahsan, director of the Accident Research Institute of the Bangladesh University of Engineering Technology.
Experts say Bangladesh, situated by the Bay of Bengal, has become more vulnerable in recent years to man-made and natural disasters because of the government's apparent lack of a political will and resourcefulness in protecting its people.
Tornado and cyclones, killing hundreds of people every year, are common occurrences in this calamity-prone South Asian country of about 153 million people whose per capita income is still less than 850 U.S. dollars.
Super cyclone Aila swept across southern Bangladesh on May 25, 2009. It caused widespread damage and affected around 3 million people, leaving at least 179 dead.
Though the country did not suffer from a big cyclone in 2012 like that, a total of 131 people lost their lives in natural disasters that occurred in about a dozen districts across the country in three weeks of June and July.
Most of the deaths were caused by landslides and the others by collapse of walls, lightning and floods caused by violent windstorms, SM Golam Kibria, senior spokesman of Bangladesh's Ministry of Food and Disaster Management, told Xinhua.
Analysts blamed the country's confrontational politics for a lack of planning and of contingency measures in times of calamities.
Political tension in Bangladesh heightened in December after the 18 party opposition alliance led by former prime minister Khaleda Zia's Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) geared up anti- government agitation programs, demanding for restoration of the non-party caretaker government system to hold parliamentary elections slated for early 2014.
Since June 2011 when Bangladesh Parliament abolished the non- party caretaker government system after an apex court verdict declared the 15-year old constitutional provision illegal, the BNP- led alliance has been waging mass protests demanding for the reinstatement of the provision.
The scrapped provision mandated an elected government to transfer power to an unelected non-partisan caretaker administration to oversee a new parliamentary election on the completion of its term.
Four people reportedly died with 600 others injured when Bangladesh's anti-government protesters and their ruling party rivals fought pitched battles for hours in capital Dhaka and elsewhere in the country on Dec. 9.
The ruling party claimed the violence escalated as proceedings were approaching the end in two war crime tribunals which were set up to try those allegedly involved in war crimes during the nine- month war in l971.
About a dozen leaders of both BNP and Jamaat, which allegedly collaborated with the Pakistani forces in 1971 to prevent an independent Bangladesh, are facing trials.
In Bangladesh, which has a history of frequent electoral fraud and violence, the caretaker government held elections in 1996, 2001 and 2008, which were recognized as free and fair by local and international observers.
The South Asian nation plunged into a major political crisis in late 2006 and returned to democracy after two years of army-backed rule following a widely accepted parliamentary elections in 2008.
Under the current circumstances, political analysts point out that a consensus among the political parties should be reached over the caretaker issue to avoid further serious confrontation, a major condition for a smooth election in early 2014.
Without a widely accepted government built on free and fair elections, it is hard to see any strong and effective measures to protect the Bangladeshi people from natural and man-made disasters.