Four people have died after a boat ferrying Rohingya refugees capsized off the Baillakhali sea point in Ukhiya upazila, Cox's Bazar around 8am on Monday.
Locals rescued 36 people from the sea where the boat capsized, as recovered the dead bodies of Juhora Begum, 60, Monira, 4, Anamul Hasan, 6, and an unidentified boy.
The unidentified body was buried on the beach by the locals.
The International Organization for Migration (IOM) deployed a mobile medical team with a doctor and a nurse along with two ambulances once they learnt about the accident. The team examined all the survivors of the capsize and referred five of them to Cox’s Bazar General Hospital, two to the Ukhiya Upazila Health Complex, four to the MOAS Hospital in Shamlapur, and two to the IOM Centre at the Baharchara Family Welfare Clinic.
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Speaking to the Dhaka Tribune, IOM medical officer Dr Raisul Islam said the scene on the Baillakhali beach was deeply distressing.
“They [the survivors] were sitting on the beach under a plastic sheet. The dead body of a child was laid out nearby. It was freezing cold and people were coughing. I checked everyone to see who was most urgently in need of medical care and identified two patients - a child and a woman – who were in critical condition. I travelled with them in one of the ambulances,” he said.
Two of the survivors, who are undergoing treatment at Ukhiya Upazila Health Complex, recounted their ordeal to the IOM workers.
"There were 40 people on the boat - 19 women, seven men and the rest of them children. The weather deteriorated early in the morning and the boat capsized. We did not have enough money to make the journey on foot. So, with relatives living abroad, we arranged for a boat to take us across the border [into Bangladesh]. I have lost my children and my mother-in-law,” said a woman, whose one-year-old son is in critical condition with severe respiratory problems.
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"We were drowning in the water, even my child. Under the water, I could not hold my son. When we floated to the surface, I found him. I saw a jerrycan and used it to float to the shore. Because I had the jerrycan, I was able to get my son and I to the shore. When we were rescued, the doctors found that my baby was close to dying and an ambulance took us to the hospital,” she added, not giving her name.
One of her other children could not survive the journey, though; after arriving to Bangladesh, the child died at the clinic in Shamlapur.
The woman's husband, who survived, was seen busy preparing for the burial of their child.
"We came here to save our lives, but I lost my children," the woman said, crying.
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Gulbahar, another survivor, was also in poor condition, having swallowed sea water.
“When the boat came close to Bangladesh’s coast, two or three people jumped off when they saw land," said the woman, in her late 20s. "The boat then lost balance in the stormy weather and capsized. As soon as that happened, I was in the water and did not know where my children were. A man grabbed my hair and pulled me up from the sea and suddenly I could breath again. Everyone in the boat was carrying all the valuables they owned – they were all lost," she said, still struggling to breathe.
Fortunately, Gulbahar's family – her husband and three children – all survived.
"We were freezing. Some people gave us blankets and then the doctors arrived to help,” she said.
Two of her children are now with her at the Ukhiya Upazila Health Complex and her husband is with the other child in another hospital.