RAKHINE – At least 15 people, including 10 children, drowned when a boat carrying persecuted Rohingya Muslims fleeing violence in Myanmar’s Rakhine state capsized in rough seas off Bangladesh.
Police official Chailaw Marma said Thursday that at least 10 injured people were being treated at a hospital in Cox’s Bazar in Bangladesh.
It was unclear how many people were missing. “We don’t know an exact figure,” Marma said.
Earlier, Fazlul Karim, a local police constable, said that 14 bodies had so far been washed ashore, and that there were fears the number could rise.
Abul Khair, a local police chief, also said that 18 people had survived the accident and that they were trying to find out how many were missing.
According to witnesses and survivors, the boat overturned just yards from the coast after apparently hitting a submerged object and was later washed ashore in two parts.
“They drowned before our eyes. Minutes later, the waves washed the bodies to the beach,” Mohammad Sohel, a local shopkeeper said.
Nurus Salam, one distraught Rohingya survivor, said he had set off for Bangladesh from a coastal village in Myanmar late Wednesday with his wife, who was killed in the disaster along with one of his children. “The boat hit something underground as it came close to the beach. Then it overturned.”
About 120 Rohingya Muslims, many of them children, have drowned attempting to reach Bangladesh in small fishing boats that are woefully inadequate for the rough seas.
The UN says the number of Rohingya refugees who have fled Myanmar in recent weeks has now topped 500,000.
On Wednesday, Images circulated by Myanmar authorities showed hundreds waiting to cross the Naf River that divides Myanmar and Bangladesh.