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Bangladesh navy searches for 81 fishermen still missing after cyclone

A Rohingya refugee girl poses for a photograph in her house, which has been destroyed by Cyclone Mora, at the Balukhali Makeshift Refugee Camp in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, on 31 May 2017. (Photo: Reuters)

DHAKA, Bangladesh — Bangladesh’s navy was searching for 81 fishermen still missing on Thursday after more than 63 were rescued from the Bay of Bengal following a devastating cyclone that killed several people and left thousands homeless.

“Still 81 fishermen are missing out of 144 fishermen. Bangladesh Naval Force have rescued 33 and Indian Naval Force rescued 30,” said Mostaque Ahmed, head of the Cox’s Bazar Mechanized Fishing Boat Owners Association.

Cyclone Mora, with winds up to 135 kph (85 mph) and heavy rain, hit southeast Bangladesh around Cox’s Bazar and the border with neighbouring Burma on Tuesday, leaving thousands of Muslim Rohingya refugees hunkered down in ruined camps.

The Rohingya have fled from their homes in northwest Burma to escape communal violence and a Burma Army crackdown.

The Bangladeshi government has estimated that in all, there are about 350,000 Rohingya in Bangladesh following a new influx last October, when the Burma Army launched an offensive in response to insurgent attacks.

Authorities in Cox’s Bazar and neighbouring Chittagong district evacuated 350,000 people from low-lying areas before the storm roared in from the Bay of Bengal on Tuesday.

“Though the fishermen were rescued, most of the boats, the main instrument for our survival, are totally damaged and it is not possible to get them replaced quickly as we are not solvent,” Ahmed told Reuters by phone from Cox’s Bazar.

“Still we are grateful to the government as now the air force with helicopters is searching for the remaining missing fishermen.”

Cyclone Mora formed after monsoon rains triggered floods and landslides in Sri Lanka, off India’s southern tip, killing 202 people in recent days, authorities said.