COX‘S BAZAR, Bangladesh (Reuters) - At least two people have died after a boat carrying refugees fleeing Myanmar capsized on its way to Bangladesh on Sunday, local authorities told Reuters.
The boat sank near Shah Porir Dwip, on the southern tip of Bangladesh, said Lieutenant Colonel Ariful Islam, the local commander of Border Guard Bangladesh.
He confirmed via SMS that the bodies of a boy and an elderly woman had been recovered in the water while eight others had been rescued. The rescue operation was ongoing on early Monday morning, local time, and the number of missing unknown, he said.
More than 500,000 ethnic Rohingya Muslims have fled Myanmar since Aug. 25, when an attack by Rohingya militants on police and military posts in Rakhine State sparked a ferocious response from Myanmar’s security forces which the United Nations described as “ethnic cleansing”.
Myanmar’s government denies the allegations of ethnic cleansing and has labelled as terrorists the militants from the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army who launched the initial attacks.
Six weeks after the violence erupted, Rohingya continue to stream into neighbouring Bangladesh by land and sea amid reports that Myanmar’s military and Buddhist mobs have targeted Rohingyas with summary killings and burned villages.
Myanmar, a mostly Buddhist nation, does not recognise the Rohingya Muslims as citizens, even though many have lived in Rakhine for generations. After waves of violence in the past five years, about 1 million Rohingya have been forced to move to Bangladesh.
The overturned vessel is the latest of a series of deadly mishaps at sea involving Rohingya refugees. Most recently, on Sept. 28, a boat carrying about 80 refugees overturned. Seventeen survived, while 23 were confirmed dead and the remainder declared missing.
On Sept. 6, 46 bodies were recovered after another boat sunk in the narrow stretch of water that separates Myanmar and Bangladesh. Among the dead were 19 children, 18 women and 9 men.
Reporting by Tom Allard, editing by David Evans