Some of the Burmese asylum seekers who were plucked from the sea 30 hours after their boat sank in the Bay of Bengal do not even have clothes, according to a manager of the 27,000-tonne Nosco Victory, which is anchored off Singapore.
Vivian Tan, a Bangkok-based spokesperson for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, on Thursday repeated an appeal for Singapore to reverse its decision to ban the ship.
''We need to get them off the ship to get them the urgent attention they need,'' she said.
In a sign of wariness by south-east Asian nations about accepting asylum seekers amid an exodus from Burma, the ship's captain cannot obtain permission to take the group to any nearby port.
Nguyen Cong Thanh, a deputy director of the Northern Shipping Joint Stock Co, or Nosco, said the ship is designed to accommodate only 24 sailors.
''So with 40 more people on board, we are very concerned about the safety issues and the food supplies,'' he said. ''Some [of the survivors] don't even have clothing.''
Ms Tan said those rescued are probably ''quite desperate'' as they had apparently spent time in the water before rescue and seen people drown around them.
Up to 160 other Rohingya, a Muslim minority fleeing violence in Burma's western Rahkine state, are believed to have drowned when the over-crowded Bangladeshi-flagged Nagu sank on December 5.
Nine other survivors are believed to have been picked up by another ship and their whereabouts are unknown.
Singapore authorities say the captain of the Nosco Victory ignored advice from Indian rescue authorities to take the people it picked up to the nearest port, which probably was in India or Bangladesh.
The captain instead continued on to Singapore, its original destination.
Singapore, which is not a signatory to the United Nations Convention on Refugees, has said in the past it would not accept Rohingya asylum seekers.
The Nosco Victory is due to arrive in Indonesia on Saturday but Jakarta appears cool on accepting them.
Reprinted by permission.