DHAKA, Feb. 11 (Xinhua) -- At least 15 people died after a boat packed with Rohingya refugees capsized in the Bay of Bengal close to Bangladesh's southeastern border with Myanmar, said an official on Tuesday.
Bangladesh Coast Guard Spokesman Lieutenant Hayat Ibna Siddique told Xinhua that 15 bodies have been recovered on Tuesday morning, 71 people have been rescued alive, and an unknown number of people were missing.
He said it remained unknown so far as to how many passengers managed to swim ashore after the boat capsized.
"Different people give different numbers. There is no way of verifying the missing numbers. Some people are reported missing," said the official.
He said the boat sank in the Bay of Bengal near St Martin's Island while heading to Malaysia, but could not provide the exact time when the accident happened, adding it may capsized between late Monday night or early Tuesday.
Upon notification, members of Bangladesh Coast Guard rushed to the scene to recover the bodies, which were floating in the Bay of Bengal near Shah Porir Island in Teknaf sub-district of the Cox's Bazaar district, some 292 km southeast of capital Dhaka.
The official feared the death toll will rise, as more bodies are likely to be retrieved with the search and rescue operation underway.
He said a massive search for the missing passengers is ongoing with support of local fishermen and other relevant state agencies.
He said the ill fated passengers of the boat were from several refugee camps located in Cox's Bazar which is currently home to about 1 million Rohingya refugees.
More than 700,000 of those in the Cox's Bazar camp have fled Myanmar and sought refuge in Bangladesh after 2017.