Rohingya children among 15 dead after boat capsizes near Bangladesh

Rohingya children among 15 dead after boat capsizes near Bangladesh

At least 15 Rohingya refugees, including 10 children, who were fleeing from recent violence in Myanmar have died when their overcrowded boat capsized in rough weather near shore in the Bay of Bengal, officials say.


Key points:

  • The Rohingya were traveling from Myanmar toward the Bangladesh coast
  • The boat capsized as the captain tried to anchor it close to shore, but lost control in rough sea
  • Ten children were among the Rohingya refugees who died

A news photographer said he saw several babies among the victims.

Police official Chailaw Marma said at least another 10 injured people were being treated at a hospital in Cox's Bazar in Bangladesh.

He said the Rohingya were traveling from Myanmar toward the Bangladesh coast by boat.

The UN International Organisation for Migration, which put the death toll at 15, said there had been about 100 people on the boat when it capsized as the captain tried to anchor it close to the shore, but lost control in rough seas.

It was unclear how many people were missing.

Survivor Abdus Salam said they came from Mariumpur village on the other side of the Naf river that divides Myanmar and Bangladesh.

He said the accident took place at Paturiatek, near Ukhiya in Cox's Bazar district.

A trip the Myanmar Government was organising for diplomats to see the situation in Rakhine State for themselves was also postponed because of the bad weather.

An official said the diplomats would go on Monday.

International aid groups in Myanmar have urged the Government to allow free access to Rakhine State, where an army offensive has sent more than 500,000 people fleeing to Bangladesh, but hundreds of thousands remain cut off from food, shelter and medical care.

Refugees are still leaving Myanmar, more than a month after Rohingya Muslim insurgents attacked security posts near the border, triggering fierce Myanmar military retaliation that the United Nations has called ethnic cleansing.

Myanmar was getting ready to "verify" refugees who want to return, the Government minister charged with putting into effect recommendations to solve problems in Rakhine, said.

Myanmar would conduct a "national verification process" at two points on its border with Bangladesh under terms agreed during a repatriation effort in 1993, Win Myat Aye, the minister for social welfare, relief and resettlement, said in a state media report.

It is unclear how many refugees would be willing to return, or have the documents they will likely need to qualify.

Myanmar authorities do not recognise Rohingya as an indigenous ethnic group, instead regarding them as illegal immigrants from Bangladesh.

AP/Reuters