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Boats carrying fleeing Rohingya Muslims capsize

SITTWE, Myanmar – Several overcrowded boats carrying more than 100 Rohingya Muslims trying to escape an approaching cyclone have capsized off the coast of western Myanmar. The United Nations says only 42 are known to have survived.

The U.N.’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said Tuesday that eight bodies have been found and more than 50 other people who were aboard are feared dead.

The boats contained Rohingya who were living in camps in Myanmar’s Rakhine state after fleeing sectarian violence last year. They were seeking higher ground ahead of Cyclone Mahasen.

James Munn, an official with the U.N. office, says up to five boats left Pauktaw township late Monday. He says reports indicate that one of the boats was towing the others and hit a rock, causing all to capsize.

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