SHAH PORIR DWIP, Bangladesh -- At least 10 people drowned and dozens more are missing after a boat packed with Rohingya fleeing to Bangladesh sank on Monday, as another 12,000 people joined a half-million-strong exodus sparked by an army crackdown in Myanmar.
The boat was carrying an estimated 50 people when it went down in the estuary of the Naf river that divides the two countries, Border Guard Bangladesh area commander Lieutenant Colonel S.M. Ariful Islam told AFP.
Nearly 200 Rohingya are known to have have drowned over the last six weeks making the perilous crossing to Bangladesh, many in small wooden fishing boats that are dangerously overloaded.
Islam said 21 survivors had swum to safety after the small fishing trawler overturned, and coast and border guards were conducting a search and rescue operation in the Naf river.
Sheikh Ashrafuzzaman, a senior police officer, said authorities had recovered the bodies of six children and four women.
"The accident happened during early morning prayers," said Shams Uddin, a local resident who saw the tragedy. "I think the boat overturned as the boatmen tried to reach the shore against the returning currents."
The UN said over the weekend that 537,000 Rohingya had arrived in Bangladesh over the last seven weeks. They are fleeing violence in Myanmar's Rakhine state, where the United Nations has accused troops of waging an ethnic cleansing campaign against them.