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54 people missing in boat capsize in Bay of Bengal

November 07, 2012 19:37 IST

At least 54 people went missing when an overloaded boat carrying 110 Bangladeshis and Rohingya refugees from Myanmar to Malaysia sank today in the Bay of Bengal, the second such incident in eight days.

The boat carrying illegal immigrants sank near the southeastern coastline of Bangladesh. At least 56 people have been rescued so far.

"The survivors said they were going to Malaysia in search of work..Our patrol boats rescued 11 of the survivors while fishing boats picked up nearly 45 others," Border Guard

Bangladesh (BGB) commander for the region Lieutenant Colonel Zahid Hasan told PTI.

The survivors said that the small boat with capacity to carry 70 people sank as it tilted to one side when people on the vessel tried to rescue one of the passengers who fell into water.

The vessel went down around 15 kilometres off the southeastern Cox's Bazaar coastal district.

A navy official said rescue campaign was underway in the sea engaging navy and coastguard boats.

This is the second such incident in the past eight days when another boat with 130 Bangladeshis and Rohingyas onboard capsized as it was heading to Malaysia.

Officially only around six people made it to safety though unofficial reports said several others survived but did not report to police fearing legal proceedings for their unauthorised trip to Malaysia.

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

Hassan said the BGB foiled two such attempts of illegal cruise to Malaysia in the past one week but admitted several boats sailed to Malaysia with job seekers escaping their eyes.

He said the middlemen took money from these people, promising them a job in Malaysia. In most of the cases these illegal immigrants were sent to jails in Malaysia after being caught.

Anisur Rahman in Dhaka
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