Dozens of Rohingya fleeing violence in Myanmar are feared to have drowned after a boat carrying them capsized in rough seas off the coast of Ukhiya in Cox's Bazar.
A total 23 bodies have been found so far. Rescuers saved some 17 Rohingya after the boat sank on Thursday afternoon. Ten of them were hospitalised with six among them later discharged, police said. Those released included four men and two children.
One of the four men released told representatives from the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) that there were 80 people who were travelling on the boat. These included 24 men and boys aged from 10 to 35 years old, six adult women and 50 children. According to this information, 40 still remain missing.
He added that boys aged over 10 years old were charged the same fare as men, and most of the children were travelling without their parents.
The six released joined the remaining seven survivors temporarily under the care of a local civil council member. All 13 are in the process of being moved to Kutupalong refugee camp.
Fatima, a 22-year-old survivor, told a team of International Organization for Migration (IOM) that one of her children was among those rescued and five others were her neighbours'.
She said her eight-month-old child, mother-in-law, sister-in-law and her four-year-old child had been missing. Her husband Abdul, 35, has been hospitalised.
Fatima said they walked for two days and two nights before boarding the boat on Wednesday evening. “There were about 100 people on the boat – most of them children,” she said.
The boatman, a Bangladeshi, had been searching for an unguarded point to anchor the boat. Around At 5pm, as he tried to anchor in rough seas, the vessel capsized, Fatima recalled.
“These people thought they had finally arrived to safety but died before even touching the land,” said Abdullah Al Mamoun, one of the IOM staff members.
Rescuers say they expect more bodies to wash up on the shore.
Since violence flared in Myanmar's Rakhine state on August 25, at least 501,800 Rohingya have fled to Bangladesh. They entered the country through various points, including land and sea routes.
Most of the newly-arrived Rohingya are staying in Kutupalong and surrounding hillocks in tents and overcrowded makeshift camps. More are waiting across the border.
Emergency response is being scaled up to meet the enormous health, safety and security needs, but they are inadequate. The UN will be launching an updated inter-agency appeal in the coming weeks.
One of the traumatised survivors of Thursday's capsize was Nurul Islam, 22, from a village in Rathetaung.
He said he had boarded a boat from Gorjundia (Rohingya name for a village near the Naf River) at 10pm on Wednesday. More than 2,000 people, mostly women and children, were waiting in boats.
“My mother, sister and her three children, my wife and our infant son drowned,” he said in a trembling voice. “I tried to hold on to my son, but I couldn't.”