DHAKA: Several thousand Rohingya fleeing violence in Myanmar surged into Bangladesh Monday, officials said, with reports of children dying from hunger, exhaustion and fever among the latest wave of refugees.
The influx crossing from Rakhine state — estimated by the UN to have reached 519,000 in total over the past six weeks — had slowed in recent days to around 2,000 a day, according to the International Organization for Migration.
But on Monday witnesses said a fresh wave arrived by boat across a narrow section of the Naf river that separates Bangladesh from Myanmar at the border village of Anjumanpara.
Local Anjumanpara councillor Sultan Ahmed claimed tens of thousands had arrived on Monday, while an AFP correspondent at the scene saw at least 10,000 new arrivals through the day and into the evening.
Lieutenant Commander Manzurul Hassan Khan, local commander of the Border Guard Bangladesh (BGB), estimated some 6,000 Rohingya had arrived during the day.
“Still it is the highest of Rohingya arrivals at least in the past two weeks,” he told AFP.
Among the latest influx were two young boys, one aged two-and-a-half years and another aged three, who died due to hunger and exhaustion as they entered Bangladesh.
“Their parents told us that they died due to starvation … They were buried in our village graveyard,” he said.
Another four-year-old boy died due to fever, an AFP photographer at the scene said.
“The father … was carrying the sick son. He was in a state of shock when he realised that his son had breathed his last during the journey on the boat,” the photographer said.
Witnesses said Rohingya had been arriving in a trickle earlier in the day, but that turned into a steady stream later and continued to grow into the night.
The UN estimates 519,000 Rohingya have arrived from Rakhine state since August 25, when attacks by Rohingya militants on Myanmar security forces prompted a deadly crackdown by the military.
They aim to reach refugee camps in Bangladesh’s Cox’s Bazar district.
Witnesses at the border described elderly and sick people lying spread-eagled on the ground, exhausted from the journey and dehydration.
Ahmed said many Rohingya avoided the main route on the Naf river following boat accidents and strict border patrols by security forces who have destroyed dozens of boats in an effort to curb the influx and drug smuggling.
The Anjumanpara crossing is a narrow point in the river, with no barbwire fence along some sections of the frontier, but it involves a perilous water crossing and walking through miles of paddy fields to enter Bangladesh.
In the past two weeks at least 37 people have died and scores were feared dead after two boats packed with fleeing Rohingya refugees capsized, one in the Naf river and another in the Bay of Bengal.