No fewer than 24 members of the ethnic Rohingya Muslim minority group have died as a result of starvation aboard a ship that had been stranded at sea for weeks.
Coastguard officials in Bangladesh said the ship, which was brought to shore late on Wednesday, had been en route to Malaysia and adrift for weeks when the deaths occurred.
Nearly 400 others were rescued from the ship.
“They were at sea for about two months and were starving,” a coastguard official said, adding that a final decision had been made to send the 382 Rohingya rescued to neighbouring Myanmar, where they originally hail from but have faced genocide by the state.
Hundreds of thousands of Rohingya Muslims fled Myanmar in 2017 following a violent crackdown in the northwestern state of Rakhine. Members of the ethnic minority group forced into Bangladesh live in dire conditions in refugee camps near the border with Myanmar.
There are unconfirmed reports that more boats carrying Rohingya stay adrift at sea, with coronavirus lockdowns in Malaysia and Thailand making it harder for them to find refuge.
The United Nations has described the Rohingya as the most persecuted community in the world.
In February, at least 15 members of the ethnic minority lost their lives when their boat, which was carrying some 130 refugees, capsized in the Bay of Bengal while trying to reach Malaysia.