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300 migrants missing off Andamans

Andaman and Nicobar islands
Andaman and Nicobar islands

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 migrants 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 had been on the boat, trying to reach Malaysia.

The migrants are thought to be from Bangladesh and Burma.

"One body has been recovered so far and search operations are still going on in nearby islands for survivors," Ranjith Narayan, Director General of Police in the Andaman and Nicobar islands, told the BBC.

'Drifting for days'

Indian coast guard officials said a group of 88 people were rescued from a small boat near Little Andaman island, about 90 km from south of the capital Port Blair.

Another 11 men were found on nearby Sandy Point island. A survivor told officials that the boat had little food or water and only a plastic sheet for sail.

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

One survivor, identified as Mohammad Ismail Arafat, said he and others had paid a Bangladeshi agent for promised jobs.

"We were left to the mercy of God... after drifting for 10-15 days, when finally we saw a lighthouse, many jumped into the water," a statement by the Indian coast guard quoted him as saying.

The Andaman and Nicobar Islands lie about 1,200km (750 miles) east of the Indian mainland.

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