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
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
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

Account Manager (Junior)

Negotiable: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Account Manager (Junior) Account ...

Solar Business Development Manager – M&A

£50000 - £60000 Per Annum: The Green Recruitment Company: The Green Recruitmen...

Test Analyst

£20000 - £30000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: An experienced Tes...

Bookkeeper - Central London

£27000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Bookkeeper - Central London A growi...

Day In a Page

A new Russian revolution: Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc

A new Russian revolution

Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc
Eugene de Kock: Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

The debate rages in South Africa over whether Eugene de Kock should ever be released from jail
Standing my ground: If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?

Standing my ground

If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
Commonwealth Games 2014: Dai Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Welsh hurdler was World, European and Commonwealth champion, but then the injuries crept in
Israel-Gaza conflict: Secret report helps Israelis to hide facts

Patrick Cockburn: Secret report helps Israel to hide facts

The slickness of Israel's spokesmen is rooted in directions set down by pollster Frank Luntz
The man who dared to go on holiday

The man who dared to go on holiday

New York's mayor has taken a vacation - in a nation that has still to enforce paid leave, it caused quite a stir, reports Rupert Cornwell
Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business, from Sarah Millican to Marcus Brigstocke

Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business

For all those wanting to know how stand-ups keep standing, here are some of the best moments
The Guest List 2014: Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks

The Guest List 2014

Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
Jokes on Hollywood: 'With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on'

Jokes on Hollywood

With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on
It's the best of British art... but not all is on display

It's the best of British art... but not all is on display

Voted for by the British public, the artworks on Art Everywhere posters may be the only place where they can be seen
Critic claims 'I was the inspiration for Blanche DuBois'

Critic claims 'I was the inspiration for Blanche DuBois'

Blanche Marvin reveals how Tennessee Williams used her name and an off-the-cuff remark to create an iconic character
Sometimes it's hard to be a literary novelist

Sometimes it's hard to be a literary novelist

Websites offering your ebooks for nothing is only the latest disrespect the modern writer is subjected to, says DJ Taylor
Edinburgh Fringe 2014: The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee

Edinburgh Fringe 2014

The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee
Dame Jenny Abramsky: 'We have to rethink. If not, museums and parks will close'

Dame Jenny Abramsky: 'We have to rethink. If not, museums and parks will close'

The woman stepping down as chair of the Heritage Lottery Fund is worried