Indian coast guard rescues 81 Rohingya on drifting boat, eight dead, one missing


NEW DELHI (Reuters) - India's coast guard found 81 survivors and eight dead on a boat crammed with Rohingya refugees adrift in the Andaman Sea, an Indian foreign ministry official said on Friday, adding that the survivors would not be allowed to enter Indian territory.

Another refugee was missing, External Affairs Ministry spokesman Anurag Srivastava said on Thursday, giving news of the rescue.

The United Nations refugee agency had raised the alarm earlier this week over the missing boat, which had set off on Feb. 11 from Cox's Bazar in Bangladesh, where refugee camps have been established for hundreds of thousands of Rohingya who have fled neighboring Myanmar.

After four days at sea the boat's engine failed, and the Rohingya had run out of food and water and many were ill and suffering from extreme dehydration by the time they were rescued, Srivastava said.

Two Indian coast guard ships were sent to help the refugees, 23 of whom were children, and the Indian government is in discussions with Bangladesh to ensure their safe return, he said.

Hundreds of thousands of Rohingya fled to Bangladesh after a deadly crackdown by security forces in Myanmar in 2017.

Authorities in Bangladesh said on Monday they were unaware of any boats leaving the camps.

(Reporting by C.K.Nayak, Writing by Rupam Jain; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore)

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