Indonesia rescuers save 69 Rohingya refugees after boat capsizes

Indonesia rescuers save 69 Rohingya refugees after boat capsizes
Indonesia rescuers save 69 Rohingya refugees after boat capsizes

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Nevin Al Sukari - Sana'a - Indonesian authorities rescued at least 69 Rohingya refugees today and were taking them to shore after their boat capsized a day earlier, according to an AFP journalist aboard the rescue vessel. — AFP pic

MEULABOH (Indonesia), March 21 — Indonesian authorities rescued at least 69 Rohingya refugees today and were taking them to shore after their boat capsized a day earlier, according to an AFP journalist aboard the rescue vessel.

Rescuers were rushing to save the group of Rohingya after they spotted them in the water, stranded and holding onto an overturned boat off the coast of western Aceh province.

The mostly Muslim Rohingya are heavily persecuted in Myanmar, and thousands risk their lives each year on long and expensive sea journeys, often on flimsy boats, to try to reach Malaysia or Indonesia.

“69 people were evacuated today by the search and rescue team,” said the journalist.

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Footage from the boat seen by AFP showed men, women and children being taken to safety by the local search and rescue agency.

The refugee group’s wooden boat and another vessel trying to help them both capsized yesterday, with survivors estimating around 150 Rohingya had been on board with dozens swept away.

On Wednesday, six Rohingya were rescued by fishermen.

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“As it was dark the process was difficult and they couldn’t find them. This morning they will continue to search and rescue them,” said Faisal Rahman, United Nations refugee agency (UNHCR) protection associate.

One of the survivors said dozens of refugees had been swept away by currents and were missing or feared dead.

“I have communicated with one of the six rescued by the locals. He said the boat took 151 people. Once the boat capsized approximately around 50 people maybe missing and passed away,” Rahman said.

“We are still coordinating with respective government agencies to do our best to save as many lives as possible.”

Local police and the regional government did not respond to requests for comment.

From mid-November to late January, 1,752 refugees, mostly women and children, landed in the Indonesian provinces of Aceh and North Sumatra, according to UNHCR.

The agency said it was the biggest influx into the Muslim-majority country since 2015. — AFP

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