Four Rohingya refugees die as boat capsizes off Bangladesh

UN Refugee Agency deeply saddened by reports of new shipwreck in the Bay of Bengal.

At least four Rohingya refugees died when their boat capsized close to shore in southern Bangladesh.  © UNHCR/Roger Arnold

GENEVA – At least four Rohingya refugees from Myanmar were killed when their boat capsized in rough seas early on Tuesday (Oct 31) in the Bay of Bengal near the coast of Bangladesh, UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency said.

Injured survivors were taken to local hospitals for treatment, UNHCR spokesperson Babar Baloch told a press briefing in the Palais de Nations.

“UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, is deeply saddened by reports of a new shipwreck in the Bay of Bengal this morning in which at least four Rohingya refugees died when their boat capsized close to the southern Bangladesh shore,” he said.

UNHCR staff and local partners had provided medical support, food, blankets and clothes to the survivors at the scene, Baloch added.

“The boat was hit by large waves ... capsized, trapping people underneath.”

According to survivors, six families - 42 people in total, many of them women and children - left on a fishing boat from Gozon Dia, south of the town of Maungdaw in Myanmar's northern Rakhine state about 2:00 a.m.

They ran into rough seas and headed for the Bangladesh shore about 8:30 a.m.

“The boat was hit by large waves and eventually capsized, trapping people underneath,” Baloch said.

A 15-year-old boy died on the spot and 22 were injured, several when they hit the engine Three were reported to have died en route to hospital.

The remaining 19 injured were taken to UNHCR's transit centre near Kutupalong camp. “We will ensure that families are not separated in the course of the medical treatment,” Baloch said.

  • Rohingya capsize survivors receive assistance near Imamerdail area of Ukhia south of Cox's Bazar.
    Rohingya capsize survivors receive assistance near Imamerdail area of Ukhia south of Cox's Bazar. © UNHCR/Roger Arnold
  • Rohingya capsize survivors receive assistance near Imamerdail area of Ukhia south of Cox's Bazar.
    Rohingya capsize survivors receive assistance near Imamerdail area of Ukhia south of Cox's Bazar. © UNHCR/Roger Arnold
  • According to survivors, 42 people – many of them women and children – left on a fishing boat from Gozon Dia south of Maungdaw town in Myanmar's northern Rakhine state.
    According to survivors, 42 people – many of them women and children – left on a fishing boat from Gozon Dia south of Maungdaw town in Myanmar's northern Rakhine state. © UNHCR/Roger Arnold
  • UNHCR and our partners rushed to the scene to provide medical support, food, blankets and clothes to the survivors.
    UNHCR and our partners rushed to the scene to provide medical support, food, blankets and clothes to the survivors. © UNHCR/Roger Arnold
  • The boat was hit by large waves and eventually capsized, trapping some people underneath. A number were injured when they hit the engine. A 15-year-old boy died on the spot.
    The boat was hit by large waves and eventually capsized, trapping some people underneath. A number were injured when they hit the engine. A 15-year-old boy died on the spot. © UNHCR/Roger Arnold

One survivor, 50-year-old Amina, told UNHCR at the scene that she was related to the 15-year-old boy who died.  His mother, nephew and another relative were receiving hospital treatment.

She said they had waited for a month in Gozon Dia for boats to take them to Bangladesh.

“There were about two thousand of us there,” she said. “We were getting some food from NGOs but everyone was terrified of the military patrols that would sometimes take the girls away.”

They were anxious to leave and, despite the dangers, she and others took their chance when a boat arrived late on Monday.

“We left at two am. It was daylight when we came close to Bangladesh. We tried several times to approach the shore and get off the boat, but kept getting hit by the big waves.

“Then the boat turned over and some people were trapped inside. Some swam to the shore."

UNHCR said it had been in touch with the Bangladeshi authorities to step up efforts to rescue people in distress at sea.

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