YANGON, Myanmar (AP) — Family members were scouring the coastline off western Myanmar on Monday, a day after a boat carrying at least 70 Muslim Rohingya capsized, but there were no new signs of survivors, a community leader said.
Only eight people have been plucked from the waters alive. The overloaded boat was in the Bay of Bengal and headed for Bangladesh when it sank early Sunday, just four hours after leaving shore, said Aung Win, a Rohingya Muslim community leader.
He was speaking fron Sittwe, the Rakhine state capital. "There were many, many women and children on board," Aung Win said, as he prepared to go to the beach to check on efforts by loved ones to search for bodies.
"Some were hoping to continue on to Malaysia, Indonesia or other third countries." Myanmar, a predominantly Buddhist nation, has been gripped by sectarian violence in the last year. Many of the 240 people killed and 240,000 others forced to flee their homes have been Rohingya, described by the United Nations as one of the most persecuted religious minorities in the world.
Dan McNorton, a spokesman for the U.N. High Commission for Refugees, warned that this year's exodus of desperate people from Rakhine could be one of the biggest ever. Around 1,500 people are believed to have fled, just in the last week, he said.
The agency had received several reports of drownings and was seeking details from authorities.