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Four Die, Survivors in Critical Condition as Second Boat Carrying Rohingya Refugees Capsizes in Two Days

IOM nurse Rubel Hossain examines a child survivor on the beach. Credit: Doctor Raisul Islam/UN Migration Agency (IOM) 2017

COX'S BAZAR, Bangladesh, Nov 1 2017 (IOM) - Around 2.00 am two nights ago (30/10), approximately 40 Rohingya refugees left Gorgondia, Myanmar, for Bangladesh on a small fishing boat. Early yesterday morning (31/10) around 8.00 am, the boat capsized off Baillakhali Sea Point in Jaliapalong Union, Ukhiya sub-district. It had just crossed the Bangladesh border and was trying to reach Shamlapur in Teknaf sub-district. They were 10 kilometres away from their destination.

Four refugees died in the tragedy, while 36 people were rescued by the local community – local authorities, members of local Union Parishad, fire service, police and local people, including fishermen. The remains of four people were recovered – one woman and three children, including Juhora Begum, a 60-year-old woman, Monira, a four and a half-year-old girl, Anamul Hasan, a 6-year-old boy, and another ten-year-old boy. The boy’s body was buried on the beach by people living nearby.

IOM, the UN Migration Agency, learned of the incident immediately and deployed a mobile medical team of a doctor and a nurse with two ambulances. The team checked all the survivors. Five were referred to Cox’s Bazar General Hospital, two to the Ukhiya Upazila Health Complex, four to the MOAS Hospital in Shamlapur, and two to the IOM Centre at the Baharchara Family Welfare Clinic.

IOM spoke to two of the survivors at the government-run Upazila Health Complex, which is supported by IOM.

“There were 40 people on the boat – 19 women and seven men, the rest were children. The weather deteriorated early in the morning and the boat capsized. We did not have enough money to make the journey on foot. So, with relatives living abroad, we arranged for a boat to take us across the border [into Bangladesh]. I have lost my children and my mother-in-law,” said a woman, whose one-year-old son is in critical condition and having difficulty breathing.

“We were drowning in the water, even my child. Under the water, I could not hold my son. When we floated to the surface, I found him. I saw a jerry can and used it to float to the shore. Because I had the jerry can, I was able to get my son and I to the shore…. When we were rescued, the doctors found that my baby was near death and an ambulance took us to this hospital,” she added. Her husband also survived, but at the time of the interview was arranging the burial of one of their other children, who survived the crossing, but died on arrival at the IOM-supported clinic at Shamlapur. “We came here to save our lives but I lost my children,” she said.

Gulbahar, a woman in her late twenties, was also in poor condition, having swallowed sea water. “When the boat came close to Bangladesh coast, two or three people jumped off when they saw land. The boat then lost balance in the stormy weather and capsized. As soon as that happened, I was in the water and didn’t know where my children were. A man grabbed my hair and pulled me up from the sea and suddenly I could breath again. Everyone in the boat was carrying all the valuables they owned – they were all lost,” she said, still gasping for breath.

But her whole family – her husband and three children – survived. “We were freezing. Some people gave us blankets and then the doctors arrived to help,” she said. Two of her children are now with her in the Ukhiya Upazila Health Complex and her husband is with the other child in another hospital.

IOM doctor Raisul Islam, who was the IOM doctor on the scene, said that scene on the beach was deeply distressing. “They were sitting on the beach under a plastic sheet. The dead body of a child was laid out nearby. It was freezing cold and people were coughing. I checked everyone to see who was most urgently in need of medical care and identified two patients – a child and a woman – who were in critical condition. I travelled here with them in one of the ambulances.”

“The other ambulance brought other survivors in need of treatment to other health facilities, including the IOM-supported clinic in Shamlapur. Some families were split up and brought to different facilities based on their condition. Once the patients are stable, we will be able to reunite the families – hopefully, this afternoon.”

This tragedy came a day after a boat carrying approximately 30 Rohingya refugees had capsized (30/10) at Sabrang Union, Teknaf sub-district. Two of the refugees died and one is still missing. People from the vicinity rescued some of the people on board, while others swam to shore. Nine of the survivors were taken to hospital for treatment.

For more information, please contact IOM Cox’s Bazar. Olivia Headon, Tel: +8801733335221, Email: oheadon@iom.int or Shirin Akhter, Tel: +8801711187499, Email: sakhter@iom.int

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