Rohingya boat capsizes in Bay of Bengal; at least 15 dead

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People stand around the bodies of victims of a boat capsize at St. Martin's Island, Bangladesh, Tuesday, Feb. 11, 2010. (AP)
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Many of the 700,000-plus Rohingya who fled a military crackdown in Myanmar in 2017 have tried to leave overcrowded refugee camps in Bangladesh’s Cox’s Bazar district on boats headed for Malaysia. (File/AFP)
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Updated 13 February 2020

Rohingya boat capsizes in Bay of Bengal; at least 15 dead

  • Some 130 people were packed on the fishing trawler that was trying to get across the Bay of Bengal to Malaysia
  • Coast guard spokesman Hamidul Islam said the boat was one of two vessels that was making the hazardous journey

SAINT MARTIN's ISLAND, BANGLADESH: At least 15 women and children drowned and more than 50 others were missing after a boat overloaded with Rohingya refugees sank off southern Bangladesh as it tried to reach Malaysia Tuesday, officials said.
Some 138 people — mainly women and children — were packed on a trawler barely 13 meters (40 feet) long, trying to cross the Bay of Bengal, a coast guard spokesman told AFP.
“It sank because of overloading. The boat was meant to carry maximum 50 people. The boat was also loaded with some cargo,” another coast guard spokesman, Hamidul Islam, added.
Nearly one million Rohingya live in squalid camps near Bangladesh’s border with Myanmar, many fleeing the neighboring country after a 2017 brutal military crackdown.
With few opportunities for jobs and education in the camps, thousands have tried to reach other countries like Malaysia and Thailand by attempting the hazardous 2,000-kilometer journey.
In the latest incident, 71 people have been rescued including 46 women. Among the dead, 11 were women and the rest children.
Anwara Begum said two of her sons, aged six and seven, drowned in the tragedy.
“We were four of us in the boat... Another child (son, aged 10) is very sick,” the 40-year-old told AFP.
Fishermen tipped off the coast guard after they saw survivors swimming and crying for help in the sea.
The boat’s keel hit undersea coral in shallow water off Saint Martin’s Island, Bangladesh’s southernmost territory, before it sank, survivors said.
“We swam in the sea before boats came and rescued us,” said survivor Mohammad Hossain, 20.
Coast guard commander Sohel Rana said three survivors, including a Bangladeshi, were detained over human trafficking allegations.
An estimated 25,000 Rohingya left Bangladesh and Myanmar on boats in 2015 trying to get to Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia. Hundreds drowned when overloaded boats sank.

Begum said her family paid a Bangladeshi trafficker $450 per head to be taken to Malaysia.
“We’re first taken to a hill where we stayed for five days. Then they used three small trawlers to take us to a large trawler, which sank,” she said.
Shakirul Islam, a migration expert whose group works with Rohingya to raise awareness against trafficking, said desperation in the camps was making refugees want to leave.
“It was a tragedy waiting to happen,” he said.
“They just want to get out, and fall victim to traffickers who are very active in the camps.”
Islam said in the past two months dozens of Rohingya reported approaches from traffickers to his OKUP migration rights group.
“Human smuggling and trafficking in the Bay of Bengal is particularly difficult to address as it requires concerted effort from multiple states,” the Bangladesh head of UN agency the International Organization for Migration, Giorgi Gigauri, told AFP.
“The gaps in coordination are easily exploited by criminal networks.”
Since last year, Bangladeshi authorities have picked up over 500 Rohingya from rickety fishing trawlers or coastal villages as they waited to board boats.
Trafficking often increases during the November-March period when the sea is safest for the small trawlers used by traffickers.
Bangladesh and Myanmar signed a repatriation deal to send back some Rohingya to their homeland, but none have agreed to return because of safety fears.
The charity Save the Children called on Myanmar to “take all necessary steps to ensure the Rohingya community can return to their homes in a safe and dignified manner.”
“The tragic drowning of women and children... should be a wake-up call for us all,” the group’s Athena Rayburn said in a statement.
 

Related


East China cities quarantine arrivals as virus spreads in S. Korea, Japan

Commuters wearing protective face masks amid fears of the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus ride an elevated train in Bangkok. (AFP)
Updated 26 February 2020

East China cities quarantine arrivals as virus spreads in S. Korea, Japan

  • South Korea has reported 10 deaths and almost 1,000 infections, while Japan has 159 confirmed cases, not including 691 on a cruise ship that was quarantined near Tokyo

BEIJING: The eastern Chinese city of Qingdao is imposing a 14-day quarantine on all arrivals, state media reported on Tuesday, as China moves to address the threat of a rise in coronavirus cases in neighboring South Korea and nearby Japan.
People with suspected virus symptoms arriving in Qingdao, a major Northeast Asian transport hub in Shandong province, should be isolated in designated hospitals, while others are required to stay at their residences or designated hotels, the official Xinhua news agency said.
The rule came into force on Monday, Xinhua added, citing a local government statement.
“Apparently 100,000 South Koreans live in Qingdao, and there are normally over 300 flights a week between Seoul and Qingdao,” Michael Pettis, a finance professor at Peking University, said on Twitter. “This is likely to be disruptive to both economies.”
Another Shandong city, Weihai, said it would quarantine arrivals from Japan and South Korea from Tuesday — the first country-specific compulsory quarantine requirement by China, which has criticized travel restrictions implemented by other countries.
The measures comes as the virus, which started in China’s Hubei province, takes hold beyond the country.
South Korea has reported 10 deaths and almost 1,000 infections, while Japan has 159 confirmed cases, not including 691 on a cruise ship that was quarantined near Tokyo.
Weihai is also home to a sizeable Korean expatriate community. It lies near the eastern tip of the Shandong peninsula across the Yellow Sea from South Korea, and its quarantine rules apply both to Chinese and foreign nationals arriving in the city.
They will be put up in hotels free of charge for a 14-day quarantine period, according to a notice on the city’s official Wechat account.

HIGHLIGHTS

● Qingdao imposes 14-day quarantine on all arrivals.

● Shandong city Weihai singles out S. Korea, Japan arrivals.

● S. Korea has almost 1,000 cases; Japan cases up.

People who arrived in Weihai from South Korea or Japan from Feb. 10 onwards have already been contacted by the Weihai government, the statement said, adding it had “appropriately handled” cases of fever.
The government of a third Shandong port city, Yantai, on Tuesday said all business travelers and short-term visitors should stay in designated hotels.
Further north in China’s Liaoning province, the city of Liaoning — home to both North Korean and South Korean communities — is tightening screening of inbound passengers and will check the temperature of all arrivals, state broadcaster CCTV reported.
Sweden’s health agency said it would not introduce airport controls that take up resources but are “ineffective” because infected people may not show symptoms.
Ukraine International Airlines onboard personnel will wear rubber gloves and masks on flights from Italy.
Meanwhile, the drugmaker Moderna has shipped a potential coronavirus vaccine for humans to government researchers for testing.
Shares of the biotech company soared, a day after the company said it sent vials to the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases for early-stage testing in the US.