Dozens of Rohingya refugees were missing and 17 confirmed dead on Tuesday after a ship carrying about 130 people capsized in the Bay of Bengal while trying to reach Malaysia, a Bangladesh coast guard official said.
Local government official Noor Ahmed said the coastguard retrieved bodies almost 1 kilometre off Saint Martin’s island, the southernmost part of Bangladesh in the Bay of Bengal.
“The vessel was overcrowded with 124 people on board when it capsized in the early hours of Tuesday,’’ Ahmed told dpa by phone from the island.
Among the passengers were about 90 women and eight children.
“Bodies of 14 women, two men and one child were recovered by the members of the coastguard and the navy,’’ he said.
Ahmed added that the boat might have overturned in the sea when it crashed into large rock amid dense fog.
“All of them are Rohingya Muslims and had set sail for Malaysia in the small boat through the Bay of Bengal,” he said of the survivors. Bangladesh’s navy and coastguard were searching for the missing,’’ Ahmed said.
Chief of the local administration Saiful Islam said rescue divers pulled 66 people from the sea after the accident.
Deaths from capsized boats carrying undocumented migrants are common as many Rohingya living in Bangladeshi camps as well as locals try to cross the Bay of Bengal for Malaysia or other destinations.
Bangladesh has been hosting over 1 million Rohingya Muslims after they fled persecution in neighbouring Myanmar.
Of them, almost 750,000 crossed the border following the 2017 military crackdown that killed an unknown number of people in Myanmar’s northern Rakhine state. (dpa/NAN)