Disaster strikes Rohinghya again as boats fleeing Cyclone Mahasen sink

 

Dozens of people are feared to have drowned after several boats carrying Muslim refugees fleeing an approaching cyclone sank in the Bay of Bengal.

In the latest of a series of hardships to fall upon the Muslim Rohingya community of western Burma, up to 50 people may be missing and eight confirmed as dead. Search and rescue operations have reportedly been launched.

“The basic information we have obtained from partners working in the area is that 42 people made it. Up to 100 people had set off,” said James Munn of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, speaking from the town of Sittwe. “They were going to find higher ground.”

Up to five boats containing Rohingya refugees set off in the early hours of Tuesday morning ahead of powerful Cyclone Mahasen, only for two of them to hit rocks and capsize near the town of Pauktaw. Although the government had encouraged people to evacuate the area, the military had apparently advised the refugees not to leave at night.

The refugees are among anywhere up to 140,000 people who either fled or were driven from their homes during a series of clashes with members of the majority Buddhist community last year.

The Buddhists of Burma’s Rakhine state say the Rohingya are not Burmese and should “return” to Bangladesh but the Rohingya say they have lived there for generations, if not centuries. They are similarly persecuted inside Bangladesh.

After almost 200 Muslims were killed last year and townships set on fire, thousands of them set up home in hastily constructed tent camps close to the coast near the town of Sittwe. They have been living in miserable conditions while the government does all but nothing to help them or address their situation.

Cyclone Mahasen is currently making its way up the Bay of Bengal.  It is expected to make landfall on Thursday near Chittagong in Bangladesh before moving into neighbouring Burma.

Countless thousands of Rohingya are living in conditions that are already extremely vulnerable to flooding and the strong winds of the monsoon season. If the cyclone strikes anywhere near Rakhine, it could be devastating.

Chris Lewa, a regional human rights activist with the Arakan Project, said of the Rohingya: “These people are already extremely vulnerable.”

The case of Cyclone Mahasen is being watched very carefully by Burma experts and activists to see whether or not the Burmese authorities are prepared to act to help the Rohingya minority. Both President Thein Sein and opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi have been repeatedly criticised to failing to speak out against persecution of the Rohingya or else to end it.

In Bangladesh, the authorities have told residents of outlying islands to leave their homes. Fishing boats and other small boats were warned to remain near the coast and not venture out to sea.

Suggested Topics
Arts and Entertainment
Friends is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year
tvSeries celebrates 20th anniversary
Sport
Yaya Touré (left) and Bayern Munich’s Spanish defender Juan Bernat
footballToure's lack of defensive work is big problem for City
Voices
voicesApple continually kill off smaller app developers, and that's no good for anyone
Arts and Entertainment
Liam Neeson said he wouldn't
tv

Liam Neeson's Downton dreams

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Sport
Wembley Stadium
footballNews follows deal with Germany
Arts and Entertainment
A spell in the sun: Emma Stone and Colin Firth star in ‘Magic in the Moonlight’
filmReview: Magic In The Moonlight
Sport
A 'Sir Alex Feguson' tattoo
football

Arts and Entertainment
Ben Whishaw is replacing Colin Firth as the voice of Paddington Bear
tv

Thriller is set in the secret world of British espionage

Life and Style
life

News
ScienceGallery: Otherwise known as 'the best damn photos of space you'll see till 2015'
Life and Style
fashion

Bomber jacket worn by Mary Berry sells out within an hour

Sport
Andros Townsend is challenged by Vladimir Volkov
football
Arts and Entertainment
Rapper Jay Z performs on the Pyramid Stage at Glastonbury in 2008
musicSinger sued over use of the single-syllable sample in 'Run This Town'
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

DT Teacher - Textiles

£100 - £135 per day: Randstad Education Chelmsford: We urgently require a DT t...

Year 1 Teacher for long term roles starting in September

£110 - £130 per day + Competitive rates of pay: Randstad Education Reading: Ye...

Year 6 Teachers needed for long term and day to day roles

£110 - £130 per day + Competitive rates of pay: Randstad Education Reading: Pr...

Year 5 Teachers needed for various roles across Berkshire

£110 - £130 per day + Competitive rates of pay: Randstad Education Reading: Pr...

Day In a Page

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week