At least two people have died and scores are missing, including many children, after a boat packed with Rohingya refugees fleeing violence in Myanmar capsized on its way to Bangladesh, according to officials.
Coastguard and border guard officials on Sunday said the boat was overloaded with about 100 people when it sank in the mouth of the Naf river that divides the two South Asian neighbouring countries.
“It capsized near Galachar (coastal village in Bangladesh) with nearly 100 people. We recovered two dead bodies. Two people were rescued alive,” Alauddin Nayan, area coastguard commander, told AFP news agency.
Rohingya testimonies of Myanmar atrocities mount
More than half a million Rohingya have emptied out of northern Rakhine and into Bangladesh since August 25, carrying stories of mass killings, gang rapes, and razing of whole villages.
Myanmar has denied allegations of ethnic cleansing, saying the military offensive was a “clearance operation” to flush out Rohingya fighters who had staged attacks on border posts in August.
Nayan said some 40 people in the boat were adult Rohingya.
“The rest were children,” he said, adding that a search and rescue operation had been launched.
Lieutenant Colonel Ariful Islam, the local commander of Border Guard Bangladesh, confirmed to Reuters news agency via SMS that the bodies of a boy and an elderly woman had been recovered in the water, but put the figure of those rescued at eight.
He said that the number of those was missing unknown.
Sunday’s incident is the latest of a series of deadly boat disasters involving Rohingya refugees.
Most recently, on September 28, a boat carrying about 80 refugees overturned. Seventeen survived, while 23 were confirmed dead and the remainder declared missing.
Myanmar considers the Rohingya illegal immigrants from Bangladesh despite the ethnic minority living there for generations.
Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies