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Nineteen fishermen are feared dead after their boat capsized near the coast of western Burma on Saturday. Six other crewmembers have been rescued, according to local police.
Than Hlaing, superintendent of the Kyaukphyu police, said that a private fishing vessel, Anawar Minn No 9, capsized on Saturday while carrying a crew of 25 through the Arakan waters around Ramree Island.
Six crewmembers were rescued by boats near the shore after they swam for more than 14 hours. The remaining 19 are feared lost at sea.
“According to the survivors, the boat capsized around 1pm in the afternoon on 2 August – at the moment, there are six survivors in Kyaukphyu,” Than Hlaing told DVB by phone on Tuesday. “As for the rest, the Fisheries Administration and other concerned government departments have launched a search-and-rescue operation.”
“The survivors said they were drifting at sea before being found and picked up by other boats,” he added.
He said that of the survivors, one is from Arakan State’s Minbya and two from Haigyi Island, one from Irrawaddy Division’s Kyonpyaw and two are from Kyimyindaing in Rangoon. Police plan to press negligence charges against the boat’s skipper, Myint Aung, who is still among the missing.
“We assume, based on witnesses’ accounts, that the incident was not caused by a storm but by the skipper’s incompetence,” said Than Hlaing.
Information provided by police and by the boat operators, however, is incongruent regarding the number of crewmembers and the cause of the incident.
Than Aung, a mechanic among the survivors, said there were only 21 people on board at the time of the incident, which he said was caused by heavy weather.
“Just as we were pulling in the net, the boat started tipping to one side and it was knocked over by a wave,” said Than Aung. “The weather was strong that day; there was heavy rain and wind, and we were completely out of contact with other vessels.”
He said the boat sank around ten miles offshore.
“We swam for our lives, and I was picked up by a boat. I swam for 14 hours,” he recalled.
The six survivors are now being treated for exhaustion.
Anawar Minn fishing vessels, six in total, are owned and operated by Rangoon-based Shwe Aw Gyi Company Limited. Tin Aung Htwe, a representative of Anawar Minn, said that five other vessels have halted their fishing work to join the search for the missing crew of vessel No 9.