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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 19 September 2018

Seven Rohingya drown trying to reach Bangladesh

At least 200 members of the Muslim minority have drowned since late August while making the treacherous sea crossing from Myanmar to Bangladesh

People look at a boat that capsized with a group of Rohingya refugees in it at Bailakhali, near Cox's Bazar, in Bangladesh on October 31, 2017. Hannah McKay / Reuters
People look at a boat that capsized with a group of Rohingya refugees in it at Bailakhali, near Cox's Bazar, in Bangladesh on October 31, 2017. Hannah McKay / Reuters

At least four Rohingya were killed on Tuesday when their boat sank off the coast of Bangladesh, police said, just hours after three babies drowned as they reached shore in a separate incident.

At least 200 members of the Muslim minority have drowned since late August while making the treacherous sea crossing from Myanmar to Bangladesh.

It comes as some 600,000 Rohingya have fled their mainly Buddhist homeland following a wave of violence there which the United Nations has described as ethnic cleansing.

Police said the three babies fell into the water as their boat reached shore in the town of Teknaf on Monday evening.

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"Two of the children were dropped from their mothers' laps," said Teknaf police chief Main Uddin. "The children were aged between three and 10 months."

The other four victims drowned when their boat sank in rough weather on Tuesday morning as it neared the Bangladesh coast.

"There were at least 33 people in the small trawler, which capsized after it was caught in high waves," said local police chief Abul Khair.

He said one person was found dead at the scene while six others were rushed to hospital in critical condition. Three of them later died.

The rest were dragged ashore or managed to swim to safety, Mr Khair added.

He said the victims were all Rohingya from the Buthidaung district of Myanmar's westernmost Rakhine state. The UN estimates that 605,000 members of the persecuted Muslim minority have fled since August 25.

Most have crossed by land into Bangladesh, where refugee camps have been overwhelmed by the sick and injured.

But others have made the dangerous voyage by sea, taking rickety fishing boats into the Bay of Bengal and snaking up the coastline of Bangladesh looking for a spot to make landfall.

The refugees have described systematic massacres, rapes and arson in their villages by Myanmar troops and Buddhists from Rakhine.

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