Boats carrying hundreds of refugees, mainly from Myanmar's persecuted Rohingya minority, have been rescued off Indonesia's Aceh province. Many require medical help, The Associated Press reports.
"We received a report from fishermen this morning that there were boat people stranded," Aceh provincial rescue chief Budiawan told Agence France-Presse news agency on Sunday. "We dispatched teams there and evacuated 469 migrants who are Rohingya from Myanmar and Bangladeshis. So far, all of them are safe," he added.
According to AP:
"Of the four vessels that arrived, three had apparently been abandoned by the smugglers and the other ran out of fuel, he said.
"Most of the migrants were men, but there also were 98 women and 51 children, officials said, adding that many were sick and weak."
"'We had nothing to eat,' said Rashid Ahmed, a 43-year-old Rohingya man who was on one of the boats. He said he left Myanmar's troubled state of Rakhine with his eldest son three months ago."
"Rohingya Muslims have for decades suffered from state-sanctioned discrimination in Myanmar.
"Attacks on the religious minority by Buddhist mobs in the last three years have sparked one of the biggest exoduses of boat people since the Vietnam War, sending 100,000 people fleeing, according to Chris Lewa, director of the Arakan Project, which has monitored the movements of Rohingya for more than a decade.
"Lewa confirmed that nearly 500 Rohingya landed in Indonesia early Sunday, with some apparently weak due to lack of food and water."