Video shows ravaged, skeletal men desperate to get out
The Indian coastguard has released a harrowing video account of its rescue of Rohingya boatpeople last month, showing skeletal men crowded on the gunwales of their sinking vessel.
More than 300 of the boat's original contingent died. On the video, the 88 rescued men, who were abandoned at sea by the Thai army, gesture for food and water as the Indian coastguard ship Varad approaches. One is so desperate that as the Varad nears, he jumps into the water. After a couple of feeble strokes, he flounders and is grabbed by a fellow Rohingya. Both men are too weak to get the swimmer back on board; he dangles like a rag doll as his boat mate clings to his arm.
'When our ship ICGS Varad approached the wooden hull, we could see that all the men on it were desperate to get out,' said Inspector General Satya Prakash Sharma, of the Indian coastguard, in Port Blair. 'Some of them even jumped into the sea before our ship could get close to the boat.'
The video stills were released to the Sunday Morning Post as part of its investigations into Thailand's treatment of Rohingya refugees. The Post reported on January 12 that the Thai Army had been towing Rohingyas out to sea in unpowered boats and abandoning them. Hundreds died.
The unpowered hulk encountered by the Varad on December 27 was filled with a putrid mix of seawater and the waste from more than 400 occupants. Rather than stand chest-deep in the unlined hull, the survivors are shown balancing precariously on the ship's gunwales and bow, and the scant remains of a stern cabin that appears to have been dismantled.
The boat, which lacks any deck and measures about 20 metres long, is ill-suited to 88 occupants; it is difficult to imagine it with the 400-plus who were loaded aboard by Thai soldiers an estimated nine days before.
The Varad had aboard a doctor and a two-bed sick bay. It was overwhelmed by the surge of critically ill men. 'But the medical team was charged up, and we managed to save each and every one of the survivors,' Inspector General Sharma said.