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Scores feared missing as Malaysia-bound boat sinks

Overloaded vessel was carrying Bangladeshi, Rohingya jobseekers

Gulf News

Dhaka: Scores of people are feared missing after an overloaded boat carrying 110 Bangladeshis and Rohingya refugees from Myanmar sank overnight in the Bay of Bengal near southeastern coastlines, officials said.

“The survivors said they were going to Malaysia in search of work... Our patrol boats rescued 11 of the survivors while fishing boats around picked up nearly 45 others according to our information,” Lieutenant-Colonel Zahid Hassan, Border Guard Bangladesh (BGB) commander for the region, told Gulf News.

He said the survivors informed them that the small boat with capacity to carry as high as 70 people sank, around 15km off the southeastern Cox’s Bazaar coastal district, after tilting to one side while trying to rescue a passengers who had gone overboard.

A navy official said a rescue campaign involving navy and coastguard boats was underway.

This is the second such incident in the past eight day. The first involved a boat carrying 130 Bangladeshis and Rohingyas which sank enroute to Malaysia.

Officially, only around half a dozen made it to safety though unofficial reports suggest that several others survived but had not informed authorities amid fears they will be prosecuted for attempting to make an unauthorised trip to Malaysia.

Police and BGB officials said two of the 11 survivors were Rohingyas. They said at least half of the passengers were Muslim Rohingyas who took refuge in Bangladesh years ago after escaping ethnic violence and persecution by the then Burmese military junta.

Hassan said the BGB foiled two such illegal attempts to sail to Malaysia in the past week but admitted several other boats had managed to make the trip undetected.

A local journalist told Gulf News navy and coastguard efforts to patrol the sea had proven inadequate, adding that police were making little headway in bringing human traffickers to justice.