A boat with at least 90 Rohingya refugees on board has drifted into the Indian waters on Monday.

The boat began its voyage from seaside town of Cox’s Bazar in Bangladesh towards Southeast Asia on February 11.

However, the engines of the boat broke down midway six days ago and has been drifting towards India’s Andaman since then.

Chris Lewa, director of the Thailand-based ‘Arakan Project’ informed that eight of the 90 refugees have already died.

“They have no drinking water or food left, so they are drinking sea water in desperation. That is why some of them are collapsing,” Chris Lewa said.

“All victims suffered from acute diarrhea after consuming sea water,” said Chris Lewa.

“Only the Indian Navy or coast guards in Andamans can save them,” said Chris Lewa.

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Meanwhile, sources in the Indian Navy informed that they are “trying to ascertain the identity of a boat that seems to have drifted into Indian waters off the Andaman coast”.

UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has appealed for immediate rescue of the Rohingya refugees on this boat.

The UNHCR said that it received reports of an “unconfirmed number of Rohingya refugees on board a vessel in distress as of February 20”.

The UNHCR urged the countries in the area – India, Bangladesh and Myanmar to immediately initiate a search operation to trace the boat.

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“Saving lives must be the priority,” said Indrika Ratwatte, director of UNHCR Regional Bureau for Asia and the Pacific.

“In line with international obligations under the law of the sea and longstanding maritime traditions, the duty to rescue persons in distress at sea should be upheld, irrespective of nationality or legal status. We appeal to all governments to deploy their search and rescue capacities and promptly disembark those in distress,” Ratwatte added.


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