GENEVA - The International Organization for Migration says 63 Rohingya refugees are believed to have died when a boat carrying them from Myanmar to Bangladesh capsized in the Bay of Bengal's rough seas Thursday.
Survivors say 80 people were on board the vessel at the start of the voyage. They say 24 men and boys between the ages of 10 and 35 were on board. The 80 passengers included at least six women and 50 children, many traveling without their parents.
According to IOM, 23 people are confirmed dead, and 40 are missing and presumed dead.
The survivors described the difficulties of being at sea with no food, and said the captain, who was a Bangladeshi, tried to evade checkpoints or sea patrols so as not to be detected, according to IOM spokesman Joel Millman.
"At one point, he chose to anchor the vessel," Millman said. "But, that proved to be a fatal mistake as the rough seas were much worse than he supposed. This was easily within sight of land. … the boat was destroyed by the high sea and the torrential rains and wind."
Millman says four of 10 survivors who were admitted to a hospital yesterday have been released. Those four and seven others will be moved to Kutupalong, a refugee camp in Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh.
Most of the more than one-half-million Rohingya refugees who fled violence and persecution in Myanmar over the past month are in this area. Thousands live in organized camps, but a majority are scattered in the surrounding hillocks in tent cities and overcrowded makeshift settlements.