More than 60 Rohingya refugees are feared dead after a boat carrying them from Myanmar capsized, leaving distraught relatives to hold burials on Friday in Bangladesh camps that the Red Cross says are tipping into a health crisis.
Half a million Rohingya have crushed into camps in Bangladesh in just over a month, fleeing a Myanmar army campaign and communal violence that the UN describes as “ethnic cleansing”.
They have poured over on foot or crossed the Naf river, which bisects the two countries in overcrowded boats.
One of them capsized in rough waters on Thursday agonisingly close to the shore. The bodies of 23 people have been retrieved from the water so far but the death toll is expected to surge to around 60.
“Forty are missing and presumed drowned,” IOM spokesman Joel Millman told reporters in Geneva.
In distressing scenes, refugees on Friday held funerals for loved ones — among them children — who had left to seek sanctuary from violence that has cut through their homeland in Rakhine state.
A woman carried a small white bundle to a grave for a Muslim burial, while male relatives wept at a school building where bodies had been laid out. “My wife and two boys survived, but I lost my three daughters,” Shona Miah, 32, told AFP.