IRISH TIMES | September 29, 2017
Refugees from Myanmar were in sight of land when vessel shipwrecked, says official
A Rohingya Muslim refugee mourns beside the body of his child near Inani beach in Cox’s Bazar district. File photograph: Fred Dufour/AFP/Getty Images
More than 60 people are feared dead following the shipwreck of a boat carrying Rohingya Muslims fleeing from violence in Myanmar to Bangladesh, the UN migration agency said.
The figure came as the UN Security Council had its first open meeting on Myanmar for eight years amid clear divisions among its members.
Spokesman Joel Millman of the International Organization for Migration told reporters in Geneva that 23 deaths had been confirmed after eight more bodies were found overnight following an initial count of 15.
Based on interviews that the organisation has conducted with survivors, Mr Millman said: “We believe 40 are missing and presumed drowned” on the vessel, which was thought to have been carrying about 80 people.
Mr Millman said the refugees were in sight of land when their ship was wrecked.
The Bangladeshi captain had not charged the passengers any fee for the transport and had been trying to avoid sea patrols or checkpoints, he said.
“The details are absolutely astonishing and remarkable,” Mr Millman said. “At one point, he [the captain] chose to anchor the vessel, but that proved to be a fatal mistake as the rough seas were much worse than he supposed.
“This was easily within sight of land.”
“People were actually quite distraught that they had gotten so close to safety and yet drowned because the boat was destroyed by the high seas and the torrential rains and wind,” he said.
He said he did not have information immediately about whether it was the worst death toll at sea since the exodus of Rohingya began on August 25th amid violence targeting them.