At least 180 Rohingya refugees were feared dead after a boat carrying them to Malaysia went missing in the Andaman Sea, reported the Guardian. In a statement on Sunday, the United Nations expressed its concern saying that a boat carrying 180 refugees, which had left the camps in the Bangladeshi city of Cox’s Bazar on 2 December bound for Malaysia, had sunk with no survivors.
The report quoted relatives of those onboard as saying that they had lost contact with the boat on December 8 and “had little hope left that any were still alive”. Mohammad Noman, a Rohingya refugee in Cox’s Bazar, whose sister and her two daughter boarded the boat with a dream to reunite with her husband in Malaysia told the publication that he lost contact with the boatman since November 8.
“Since the boat left Bangladesh on December 2, every day we called up the boat two or three times on the boatman’s satellite phone to find out if my sister and her two daughters were all right,” he said. “Since December 8, I have failed to get access to that phone.”
Noman added that he knew some other people in the Cox’s Bazar whose relatives were also on the boat and stayed in contact with them, but “ none of them has succeeded to reach the phone after 8 December.”According to the report, if the boat’s sinking is confirmed, the year 2022 will be one of the deadliest years for refugees to flee the camps in Bangladesh bringing the fatality toll of such refugees to 350, one of the worst tolls in recent years.
Kefayatullah, the captain of another boat which was rescued by Sri Lankan coast guards earlier this month after it ran into trouble, recalled that he saw the boat carrying the 180 refugees get caught up in high waves during a stormy night some time in the second week of December.
“It was around 2am when a strong wind began blowing and big waves surfaced on the sea. Jamal’s [the captain] boat began swaying wildly, we could gauge from a flashlight they were pointing at us. After some time, we could not see the flashlight any more. We believe the boat drowned then,” Kefayatullah said.
Noman described to the publication the devastation in his family at the realisation that the boat carrying his sister and her two daughters had probably sunk. “My mother has not eaten food for two days now. She is crying continually and fainting time and again,” he said.