India widens sea search for 300 missing migrants

On Monday, coastguard officials put the number of survivors at 102.

India widens sea search for 300 missing migrants
Indian authorities said on Monday they still hope to find survivors among about 300 men, mainly Bangladeshis, missing near remote islands in the Bay of Bengal, although the navy said it had recovered two more bodies.

Two Indian navy ships have joined coastguard vessels searching for the missing men, many of whom are feared to have drowned, officials said.

"We are looking for them in all possible places near the south of Little Andaman as we think there could be more survivors," Andamans defence spokesman Mannu Virk told Reuters in Port Blair, the capital of Andaman and Nicobar islands.

"We will continue our search and rescue operation in all the islands," he said.

Survivors said the men swam for shore after drifting for weeks in a small boat with little food or water and only a plastic sheet for a sail.

"The survivors said they saw a lighthouse late at night and thought they had reached the shore," Ashok Chand, a senior police officer, told Reuters in Port Blair.

"Nearly 300 jumped into the sea, one following the other, causing the deaths it seems," he said.

Authorities in Port Blair said the men were mostly Bangladeshis and some Myanmar nationals, aged between 18 and 60.

Setting sail for Malaysia, where they were promised jobs, in six boats 45 days ago, the would-be migrants soon became lost and drifted through the Bay of Bengal.

Coastguard officials said on Sunday 88 men from an original group of 412 had been rescued from a boat found near Little Andaman island, about 90 km (55 miles) south of Port Blair.

On Monday they put the number of survivors at 102.

Two more bodies were found on Monday, taking to seven the number recovered since the boat was discovered on Thursday.

Survivors told authorities that seven others had died at sea and their bodies had been dumped overboard.

India's coastguard is investigating how the men drifted into Indian waters, and how the survivors came to be in one boat.

A remote cluster of more than 500 mostly uninhabited islands, the Andaman and Nicobar Islands lie about 1,200 km (750 miles) off India's east coast, close to Myanmar.

Last Mod: 29 Aralık 2008, 17:01
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