Photos: Desperate, dehydrated Rohingyas picked up in dramatic sea rescue

As the skipper of an Indonesian search-and-rescue vessel scoured the sea early on Thursday, a dot appeared on the horizon – dozens of Rohingya refugees drifting on the rusty hull of their overturned ship poking out of the water.

Against the ocean expanse were men, women and children trying to escape Bangladeshi camps filled with poverty, crime and a lack of hope to reach the shores of Indonesia or, eventually, Malaysia for a better life.

Under the beating sun, a rescuer had seen one of the men desperately waving a red shirt through his binoculars, hailing the ship in the direction of the group whose boat capsized on Wednesday, with dozens feared to have been swept away.

The group was standing on their makeshift metal buoy because there was not enough room for them all to sit with more than half of it submerged by the sea, AFP footage from the rescue boat showed.

But the arrival of the rescuers had brought hope.

“The first thing I saw was a little girl, around five years old. A rescuer carried the girl. I looked at her feet and they were badly wrinkly, as if they had been submerged in water for a long time,” said an AFP journalist on board the rescue ship.

“She looked so weak and dehydrated, but her face seemed hopeful again.”

As the rescue boat approached them, a group of men and children stood together, water tumbling around their legs as the rescuers tied a rope to the hull to keep their dinghy close.

Some men panicked and tried to jump into the inflatable rescue boat, having to be calmed down by their peers and the rescuers.

Others then made sure to let the children stranded on the hull board the rescue boat first.

As the rescuers negotiated who they should first take back to a larger ship, some of the men had to be dragged on to rescue dinghies, with no energy left in their arms.

Others looked on patiently as they waited for their turns to be rescued. Many had no shirts on their backs despite the scorching temperatures.

The 69 successfully reached land in Aceh on Thursday afternoon, with most taken to a temporary shelter. Some were immediately taken to hospital.

Yet the status of those who accompanied them but were swept away when the boat capsized remains unknown.

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