At least 16 Rohingyas died after a boat carrying them illegally to Malaysia sank in the Bay of Bengal near Saint Martin's Island early Tuesday.
Lt Nayemul Haque, station commander of Saint Martin's Coast Guard, said 15 bodies have been recovered so far and 71 have been rescued alive.
The Coast Guard, Border Guards Bangladesh, and Saint Martin's Island Boat Owners Association have been carrying out the rescue effort, said Lt Nayemul Haque, station commander of Saint Martin's Coast Guard.
Lt Nayemul Haque said they started the rescue effort after local fishermen informed the authorities about the sunken boat. Two boats with around 150 Rohingyas on board headed towards Malaysia on Monday night. The engine of one of the boats stopped working late at night, and the boat started sinking gradually.
Quoting the rescued Rohingyas, Saint Martin's Union Parishad Panel Chairman Abdur Rab said the Rohingyas paid the traffickers Tk10,000 to Tk20,000 each to take them to Malaysia. Many of the Rohingya girls on the boats had been tortured by their relatives at the camp, so they took the risk of going to Malaysia in the hopes of a safer life.
Mujibur Rahman, the president of the Awami League's Saint Martin's Union unit said, "The victims suspect that the greedy traffickers intentionally sank the boat that was carrying around 120-125 people."
Fazlul Haque, the officer-in-charge of the Saint Martin's police camp, said the bodies of 12 women and three children have been found so far. The rescued Rohingyas received primary treatment at the jetty, and the authorities are making a list of them.
Iqbal Hossain, additional superintendent of police in Cox's Bazar, said last year traffickers could not make such an attempt because of heavy surveillance. The traffickers made an attempt after a long time to take a boat full of Rohingyas to sea.
He also said that the police are trying to identify the traffickers from the information given by the rescued Rohingyas. But such tragedies cannot be prevented if the Rohingyas do not pay heed to the administration's prohibitions.