Tragedy struck more Rohingya refugees fleeing violence in Myanmar last night. At least 13 people, mostly children, drowned when the fishing boat carrying them to safety in Bangladesh capsized in stormy weather.
The Bangladesh coast guard found 13 bodies, including seven boys between the ages of 3-10 years, and four girls aged 2-3 years. The bodies of a 70-year-old man and a 60-year-old woman were also recovered from the waves.
There were approximately 60 refugees aboard the 20-metre, wooden fishing vessel when it left Myanmar under cover of darkness, hoping avoid patrols on both sides of the border, survivors told UN Migration Agency staff at the scene.
IOM staff spoke to survivors, among them a traumatized 8-year-old boy. Transfixed with shock, Arafat, said his entire family was lost in the accident. They included his father Kamal Hossain, 25 years; mother Shahara Khatun, 20 years; sister Jannat Ara, 10 years; and younger brother Ziad, who was 7 years of age.
“Where will I go now,” he cried, as a relative who had travelled from Cox’s Bazaar on hearing the news of the tragedy stood by him.
Two other children sitting next to Arafat also lost their entire families last night.
Rumana, a 7-year-old girl, told IOM her mother Ayesha (35), two sisters Minara (8) and Nur Fatima (10) as well as her brother Nur Hashim (7) all drowned. Her father had died shortly after she was born. Rumana, still visibly in shock as she recounted the names and ages of her family, ended with: “Everyone in my family died.”
Jobayer, an 8-year-old boy lost his entire family. His mother Moriom Khatun (30) father Habibullah (40), brother Kefayet Ullah (10) and two sisters Fatema (9) and Taiyaba (7) where amongst those who did not make it last night.
Another survivor, Hassan (22) lost all nine members of his family, who were also on the boat. His mother Gulzar, 60 years old; father Jahid Hossain, 55; sister Senoara, 25; her husband Abdus Subhan, 35; and their three children aged 4, 3 and 18 months all drowned, along with a baby niece and a nephew.
Syed Hoson, 25, lost his wife Khaleda Begum, 22 and three boys Ibrahin, 7, Mohammad Hoson, 5, and Sobayer, 3 months-old.
The funeral of seven of those who drowned took place earlier today. The service attended by the IOM filed staff on the scene, was conducted near where they drowned.
The fleeing Rohingya had paid Bangladeshi fisherman the equivalent of USD 30 a head for what should have been a short sea journey, survivors said.
Their boat was headed for Shahporir Dwip, an island at the southern tip of Bangladesh, about 78 kilometres south of Cox’s Bazar, when it foundered at Golar Para Char when the fisherman at the helm lost control and ran aground.
The overloaded boat, which would normally carry 20 people, had approximately 60 on board, and was swamped by high waves and winds in a sudden monsoon storm.
It sailed from Dongkhalir Char in Buthidaung Township, North Rakhine State, at around 6.00 pm local time. At around 9 pm the Bangladesh coast guard and border police were alerted and launched a rescue mission.
Like many of the most recent arrivals in Bangladesh, the refugees caught up in last night’s tragedy came from villages well inside Myanmar. They told IOM staff that they walked for eleven days before reaching the coast.
“Thousands of Rohingya have taken shelter at Dongkhalir Char. Some are living in the open under the sun, others managed to get polythene, tarpaulin or are using pieces of cloth to make temporary shelters for themselves. People there are waiting for boats to come from Bangladesh to help them cross,” Hassan told IOM.
Their tragedy follows on another mass drowning on September 28, when another fishing boat carrying refugees capsized near the same spot. In that incident 23 people were drowned and 17 survived.
As of 7th October, 519,000 Rohingya refugees have arrived in Bangladesh, including 467,800 identified by IOM assessments in the Cox’s Bazar area.