29 Dec 2008

300 missing in Bay of Bengal

3:13 pm on 29 December 2008

About 300 illegal migrants are feared to have drowned in the Bay of Bengal off the coast of India's Andaman and Nicobar islands.

The BBC reports they went missing after they jumped from a drifting boat and tried to swim ashore. More than 100 people have been rescued so far.

A survivor told police that more than 400 people were on the boat, trying to reach Malaysia. They are thought to be from Bangladesh and Burma.

Indian coast guard officials said a group of 88 people were rescued from a small boat near Little Andaman island, about 90km from south of the capital Port Blair. Another 11 men were found on nearby Sandy Point island.

Preliminary investigations suggested the men left for Malaysia in six motorised boats about 45 days ago. At some point in the journey, they changed vessels.

The Andaman and Nicobar Islands lie about 1200km east of the Indian mainland.