An overcrowded boat carrying about 125 Rohingya refugees from Bangladeshi camps has sunk in the Bay of Bengal, leaving at least 16 dead, Bangladeshi officials said.
The coastguard, navy divers and other rescuers recovered the bodies of 14 women, one child and a man after the wooden boat capsized off St Martin’s Island, the top elected official on the island told Associated Press.
Noor Ahmed said 62 refugees on the boat survived. They were persuaded by traffickers to get on the boat as it was heading for Malaysia, he said.
Iqbal Hossain, additional police superintendent in Cox’s Bazar, said overcrowding had caused the boat to capsize and that it may have been carrying additional cargo as well.
Hossain said the bodies were sent to nearby Shah Porir island and the rescue operation was continuing. He did not give an exact figure about how many people remained missing.
Traffickers usually lure refugees by promising a better life overseas. Many past attempts to travel illegally by boat have been thwarted by coastguards.
More than 700,000 Rohingya Muslims have fled to Bangladesh from neighbouring Myanmar to flee a harsh crackdown by the military since August 2017.
Myanmar has long claimed the Rohingya are Bengali migrants from Bangladesh, even though their families have lived in the country for generations. Nearly all have been denied citizenship since 1982, effectively rendering them stateless.