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Scores of Rohingya feared drowned after boat capsizes

شعار Al Jazeera Al Jazeera 28/09/2017
The UN says the number of Rohingya who have fled to Bangladesh has exceeded 500,000 [File: Showkat Shafi/Al Jazeera] © Provided by Al Jazeera The UN says the number of Rohingya who have fled to Bangladesh has exceeded 500,000 [File: Showkat Shafi/Al Jazeera]

Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh - Scores of people, including many women and children, are feared to have drowned when a boat carrying Rohingya fleeing unrest in Myanmar sunk off the coast of Bangladesh, police and witnesses have told Al Jazeera.

More than 100 Rohingya were on board the vessel when it capsized in rough seas around 5:30pm (11:30am GMT) and broke to two pieces close to Patuwartek, some 8km of Inani Beach in Cox's Bazar District.

Seventeen survivors were found, along with 15 bodies of women and children, police said.

READ MORE: 'Lost and found booth' reunites Rohingya families

"The Rohingya [survivors] are saying there were more than 100 on the boat," Inspector Mohamed Kai Kislu told Al Jazeera.

"We fear we will find more bodies," he added.

Ambulances, police and firefighters rushed to the scene, as did locals carrying torches to help in the rescue operation.

"There were so many children. I saw six bodies wash up," witness Kullia Mia, who was among those who jumped into the water to try and help save people's lives, told Al Jazeera.

Another witness, Bilaluddin, said the sea was "quite rough" when the boat capsized.

"We saw so many people drowning," the 27-year-old told Al Jazeera.

"I found a two-month old infant. I couldn't save anyone. I recovered three bodies," Bilaluddin said.

"I don't think we can find survivors, but only dead bodies."

READ MORE: Rohingya mothers and babies - Hungry and traumatised

The incident came as the United Nations said that the number of Rohingya who have fled to neighbouring Bangladesh since violence erupted in Myanmar's Rakhine state on August 25 has exceeded half a million.

"We are dealing with an unprecedented flow of people in terms of numbers," said Peppi Siddiq, project manager at the International Organization for Migration.

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