A boat carrying at least 70 Muslim Rohingya capsized and sank on Nov. 3 off the western coast of Myanmar. Only eight survivors have been found.
The boat was in the Bay of Bengal and headed for Bangladesh when it went down early morning, said Abdul Melik, who works for a humanitarian organization in the region.
The incident comes after the UN warned that an annual and often deadly exodus of desperate people from Myanmar’s Rakhine state appears to have begun. The exodus usually kicks off in November, when seas begin to calm following the annual monsoon. As many as 1,500 people fled in the last week of October.
In the incident on Nov. 3, Melik said the wooden boat, which was carrying at least 70 Rohingya from Ohn Taw Gyi village, left at around 3 am and broke apart about four hours later. Women, children and babies were among those on board.
Myanmar, a predominantly Buddhist nation of 60 million, has been gripped by sectarian violence in the last 18 months, leaving more than 240 people dead and causing 250,000 to flee from their homes. Most of the victims have been Rohingya, a long persecuted Muslim minority in the country, with Buddhist mobs chasing them down with machetes, iron chains and bamboo clubs.
The UN says it expects this year’s exodus to be one of the biggest on record because of the violence.