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Death toll from Rohingya boat capsize likely to top 60

People stand next to the covered body of Rohingya Muslim refugee near Inani beach, Cox’s Bazar on September 29, 2017. At least 15 people drowned and scores are feared missing after a boat carrying Rohingya families capsized off Bangladesh on September 28, as UN chief Antonio Guterres exhorted Myanmar’s leaders to end the refugees’ “nightmare.” More than half a million Rohingya Muslims have fled to Bangladesh in the last month, after the military in Buddhist-majority Myanmar launched vicious operations against Rohingya rebels. / AFP PHOTO / FRED DUFOUR

The death toll from a boat which capsized off Bangladesh carrying Rohingya refugees is set to pass 60, the UN migration agency said Friday.

“Twenty-three people have been confirmed dead … 40 are missing and presumed drowned,” International Organization for Migration spokesman Joel Millman told reporters in Geneva, referring to the Thursday accident.

“The total fatality toll be in the range of 60,” he added, updating a previous toll of 19.

Survivors from the accident told IOM staff that the boat was carrying about 80 people, including 50 children, who were believed to be fleeing violence from Myanmar’s northern Rakhine state.

“Survivors described being at sea all night, having no food,” Millman said.

The drowning tragedy is the latest in a series of deadly accidents as desperate refugees surge into Bangladesh, where they are penned into ramshackle tent cities amid dire shortages of nearly all forms of aid.

Witnesses and survivors previously said that the overturned vessel was just metres from the coast in rough waters, after it was lashed by torrential rain and high winds.

“The Bay of Bengal has been a notorious killing zone for many years,” Millman added, highlighting the dangers facing Rohingya migrants seeking safety via the sea.

He added that the “captain” of the vessel, who is a suspected trafficker, is missing and presumed dead, but not included in IOM’s death toll, which counts only the migrants.

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