Sept. 29 (UPI) — Officials now fear that nearly 60 Rohingya refugees are dead after a boat fleeing Myanmar capsized off the cost of Bangladesh, the U.N. Migration Agency said.
Capsizing in the Bay of Bengal’s rough seas, the doomed boat left a number of people dead — at least 23 — on Thursday. Nearly 40 people, though, remain missing and are presumed drowned. Seventeen have been rescued.
One survivor told the International Organization for Migration that of the 80 people he personally counted on the boat, about 50 were children.
The refugees had been on the boat heading towards the port city of Cox’s Bazar in neighboring Bangladesh for about a day before it capsized.
Inclement weather is suspected as a contributing factor in the capsizing.
“While trying to anchor the boat, and given how rough the seas currently are from torrential wind and rain, the captain lost control of the boat and it capsized,” the U.N. Migration Agency report said. “The incident happened very close to the shore but where the water was still dangerously deep.”
More than half-a-million Rohingya Muslims have fled from Myanmar to Bangladesh in the last few weeks after tensions between Rohingya Muslims and Buddhists escalated to the destruction of nearly 200 Rohingya villages.
U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres has called the troubled migration, “the world’s fastest developing refugee emergency and a humanitarian and human rights nightmare.”