GENEVA: The UN’s refugee agency yesterday raised the alarm over the rising number of boat people perishing in the Indian Ocean, including Rohingya Muslims fleeing communal strife in Myanmar.
“It is clear that for people fleeing violence and conflict in their homelands, this has become one of the most dangerous stretches of water in the world,” said UNHCR spokesman Andrej Mahecic.
In 2012, some 13,000 people took to smugglers’ boats in the Bay of Bengal, of whom 500 died at sea when the vessels broke down or capsized, said Mahecic.
“Already in 2013, several thousand people are believed to have boarded smugglers boats in the Bay of Bengal,” he added.
Among the most recent incidents, around 90 people are believed to have died of dehydration and starvation during a two-month journey, he said.
Around 30 survivors were rescued last weekend by Sri Lanka’s navy off that country’s coast.
“The repeated tragedies at sea demonstrate the need for a coordinated regional response to distress and rescue at sea,” said Mahecic.
Military copters attacked in Papua
TIMIKA: Gunmen opened fire yesterday on a military helicopter in Indonesia’s restive Papua region as it tried to retrieve the bodies of soldiers killed in an earlier attack, a military official said.
“A Puma SA-330 military helicopter was shot by gunmen at 08.15am local time (2315 GMT Thursday) as it landed in Sinak,” Jayapura city military airbase chief Diah Yudhanardi said.
The helicopter was forced to return to Jayapura without picking up the seven soldiers shot dead in Sinak on Thursday, he added. “A technician on board suffered a light shrapnel wound to his left hand, while the two others, pilot and co-pilot were all fine,” Yudhanardi said.
“We’re still trying to arrange another helicopter to fly back later today to Sinak to transport the seven bodies,” he added.