An overcrowded boat carrying over 100 Rohingya refugees fleeing Myanmar capsized off Bangladesh early Wednesday, officials said. The incident comes a fortnight after another boat carrying 135 refugees sank in the Bay of Bengal in October 28.
About 85 passengers were reportedly missing after the boat sank 15 kilometers (9 miles) off the southern district of Cox’s Bazaar. The refugees were traveling to Malaysia to escape persecution in their own country.
“We have now rescued 25 survivors with the help of local fishermen and a search and rescue operation is underway,” Bangladesh Border Guard commander Lieutenant Colonel Zahid Hasan told AFP.
“This is another case of an illegal bid to reach Malaysia. The middlemen took money from these people, promising them to get to the country,” Bangladesh government’s chief administrator in the area, Shamsul Islam said.
The latest tragedy comes as hundreds of thousands of Muslim Rohingya flee from the violence in Myanmar, with many illegally crossing the border to neighboring Bangladesh or boarded boats to other nearby countries to seek asylum.
Bangladesh had turned away scores of refugees, saying it was already burdened with an estimated 300,000 of the minority group, which the UN describes as among the world’s most persecuted.