Dhaka – At least 21 people have been drowned after boats carrying Rohingya Muslims capsized in south-eastern Naf river in the last couple of days, officials said.
Rescuers retrieved 17 bodies from the river on Thursday while four others were recovered on Wednesday after three boats overturned in the waters while the Rohingya were trying to cross into Bangladesh.
Fleeing homes in Myanmar’s restive Rakhine State in the wake of killing, looting, arson attacks, tens of thousands of Rohingya have desperately been seeking safety in Bangladesh.
They gathered on the zero line of the border. Many have been starving at their makeshift shelters built of bamboo and polyethylene sheets ever since they arrived there after the Friday’s attack that left nearly 100 people, including 12 security persons, killed.
Local government representative Nurul Amin said two boats sank after the midnight Wednesday. Being informed, fishermen launched the rescue operation. They found the bodies, mostly women and children, in the morning.
“Some of the passengers managed to swim, but we don’t know whether anyone is still missing,” Amin said adding that some 500 Rohingya have already crossed into Bangladesh territory and sheltered in an offshore island.
Zahid Hossain Siddique, Upazila Nirbahi Officer of Teknaf, said he heard 17 people were dead after the boats capsize. He said a search operation was launched.
Border Guard Bangladesh troopers have troopers have pushed back at least a dozen boats of Rohingya as they tried to cross into Bangladesh in the past week. But the Rohingya have desperately been trying to enter Bangladesh by hook or by crook.
The guards were also put on alert at various points of 271 kilometers of border that Bangladesh shares with Myanmar in the country’s south-east. Eighty kilometers stretch of Naf river is included in the 271.
International Organisation for Migration says at least 18,000 Rohingya have entered Bangladesh after the violence erupted in the Myanmar’s Rakhine state on August 25.
The new groups of refugees are dire need of shelter, food, water and medical attention, the agency said.