Four Rohingya Muslims, a man, woman and two children, drowned when a small wooden fishing boat carrying dozens of refugees fleeing ethnic violence in Myanmar capsized off the Bangladesh coast on Tuesday, police said.
Residents of the coastal strip south of the Bangladesh port of Cox’s Bazar fished 37 survivors out of the water and 11 have been admitted to hospital in a critical condition, said police officer Mohammad Abul Khair of the area’s Ukhiya police station.
The boat had keeled over in choppy seas as rain fell. According to survivors they had paid 50,000 kyat ($37) to be taken to Bangladesh, having abandoned their homes in Buthidaung, in the strife-torn north of Myanmar’s Rakhine State.
In a separate incident at the southernmost tip of the Cox’s Bazar district, three Rohingya infants drowned as they slipped from their mothers’ clutches when the boat bringing them from Myanmar reached the Bangladesh shore, police official Main Uddin Khan of the region’s Teknaf police station told Reuters.
The babies, aged between three and 10 months, were lost in the waves pounding the beach. The bodies of two were found on Monday evening, and the third on Tuesday.
More than 600,000 Rohingya have fled to neighbouring Bangladesh since the military in predominantly Buddhist Myanmar launched a counter-insurgency operation after attacks on security posts by Rohingya militants in late August.
United Nations officials have described the Myanmar military’s action as “ethnic cleansing”, an accusation that Myanmar denies.
Around 200 Rohingya refugees have drowned since late August, while making the perilous sea and river crossing to the safety of predominantly Muslim Bangladesh.