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122 missing as boat carrying Rohingya refugees sinks

October 31, 2012 22:01 IST

At least 122 people, many of them suspected to be Myanmar's Rohingya refugees, were feared missing when a boat carrying them to Malaysia sank in the Bay of Bengal near Bangladeshi waters, officials said on Wednesday.

"According to one of the six survivors, at least 122 people are still missing in the sea after the trawler capsized with 128 people onboard on October 27," Border Guard Bangladesh's commanding officer of the Cox's Bazar region Lieutenant Colonel Zahid Hassan told PTI over phone.

He said the Bangladeshi survivor, Abu Bakar, told BGB that illegal manpower traders allured them of good jobs in Malaysia and arranged their trip in an engine boat, locally called trawler with capacity to carry as high as 70 people.

"The overloaded boat capsized apparently after being hit by an undersea rock causing a crack on its bottom, when its engine also went out of order," Hassan said.

He said two of the survivors were suspected to be Rohingyas who took refuge in Bangladesh coast several years ago, but insisted that most of the passengers were Bangladeshis, contrary to what appeared in some international media.

"The navy or coastguards were yet to find any body in the sea though some fishermen said they saw several bodies were floating on the deep sea," he said.

Cox's Bazar police said six survivers were rescued by fishing boats around and one of them reported the accident to BGB and police but they four others were yet to report  fearing punitive actions for their illegal adventure.

But another survivor told a group of local journalists that brokers collected nearly 150 people from the coastlines and took Taka 40,000 to 50,000 from each promising them to take to Malaysia.

He said the passengers were told that they would be transferred to a bigger ship at the mid-sea. Nearly 89 people have been killed and tens of thousands have fled their homes in violence between Rohingya Muslims and Buddhists in Myanmar's western Rakhine state.
Anisur Rahman in Dhaka