UN agency seeks help to find Rohingya boat adrift at sea

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) — A broken-down boat carrying ethnic Muslim Rohingya is believed to drifting in the Andaman Sea with some of them already dying from lack of food and water, the U.N. refugee agency said Monday, appealing to Southeast Asian governments to rescue them.

The vessel departed from Cox’s Bazar and Teknaf in Bangladesh 10 days ago and has been adrift for over a week after the engine broke down, the U.N. High Commission For Refugees said. It could not confirm the number of people or the location of the boat, but said the refugees reported the vessel ran out of food and water several days ago.

“Many are in a highly vulnerable condition and are apparently suffering from extreme dehydration. We understand that a number of refugees have already lost their lives, and that fatalities have risen over the past 24 hours,” UNHCR director for Asia and the Pacific, Indrika Ratwatte, said in a statement.

UNHCR said it had alerted authorities in states surrounding the Andaman Sea and appealed for help to find the vessel and disembark the refugees. It said it is ready to provide humanitarian assistance and quarantine measures if the boat is found.

“The fact that refugees and migrants continue to undertake fatal journeys accentuates the need for immediate and collective regional response to search, rescue and disembarkation,” it added.

More than a million Rohingya who fled waves of violent persecution in Myanmar are living in overcrowded, squalid refugee camps in Bangladesh.

Muslim-dominated Malaysia has been a common destination of boats arranged by traffickers who promise the refugees a better life abroad.

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