About 40 people are missing and presumed drowned after a boat of fleeing Rohingya Muslims capsized off Bangladesh on Thursday.

Shuna Miya lost three daughters in the accident while his other three children and wife survived. (Reuters)
Shuna Miya lost three daughters in the accident while his other three children and wife survived. (Reuters) ()

The death toll from a boat which capsized off Bangladesh carrying Rohingya refugees is set to pass 60, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) said Friday. 

"Twenty-three people have been confirmed dead ... 40 are missing and presumed drowned," IOM spokesman Joel Millman told reporters in Geneva, referring to the Thursday accident. 

"The total fatality toll be in the range of 60," he added, increasing a previous toll of 19. 

Survivors from the accident told IOM staff that the boat was carrying about 80 people, including 50 children, who were believed to be fleeing violence from Myanmar's northern Rakhine state. 

"Survivors described being at sea all night, having no food," Millman said. 

Earlier on Friday, Bangladesh police police confirmed 20 dead as a new surge in the refugee numbers fleeing Myanmar military operation took the total to about 502,000.

The victims were buried in a mass grave just behind Inani Beach near Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh on September 29, 2017. (Reuters)
The victims were buried in a mass grave just behind Inani Beach near Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh on September 29, 2017. (Reuters) ()

Armed Buddhists harassing Rohingya

Survivor, Abdul Kalam, 55, said at least 100 people had been on board. His wife, two daughters and a grandson were among the dead, he said.

Kalam said armed Buddhists had come to his village about a week ago and taken away livestock and food. He said villagers had been summoned to a military office and told there were no such people as Rohingya in Myanmar.

After that he decided to leave and headed to the coast with his family, avoiding military camps on the way.

On Thursday at the UN, in a sharp ramping up of the pressure on Myanmar, also known as Burma, US echoed UN accusations that the displacement of hundreds of thousands of people in Rakhine State was ethnic cleansing.

Buddhist-majority Myanmar rejects accusations of ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity.

Its military launched a sweeping offensive in response to coordinated attacks on the security forces by Rohingya rebels in the north of Rakhine state on August 25.

Refugees arriving in Myanmar have told of attacks and arson by the military and Buddhist vigilantes aimed at driving Rohingya out.

Crisis matches Rwanda migration

Bangladesh now hosts over 800,000 Rohingya refugees, many of them in southern Cox's Bazar where nearly half a million traumatised made their way over the course of just one month. 

“Nothing comparable, in terms of the number of people arriving in such a short space of time, has happened since 1994 in Rwanda,” said Christopher Lom, Asia-Pacific spokesman for the International Organization for Migration (IOM).

Most of the refugees have come with nothing more than the clothes they wore. Nearly 200 of the women have given birth since they arrived and another 20,000 are pregnant, according to aid groups. 

In October and November last year, a smaller outbreak of violence brought an influx of 80,000 Rohingya, prompting improvements in infrastructure and coordination at Cox’s Bazar, said the United Nations’ local chief coordinator, Robert Watkins.

"It was working extremely well," he said. "And then we got this wave of humanity, and we were overwhelmed."

Source: TRTWorld and agencies