The traffickers, who were sending over 300 Bangladeshis illegally to Malaysia on a trawler through the Bay of Bengal, hacked and dumped a number of passengers in the sea, said the survivors.
A day after the five Bangladeshis were killed by traffickers on the trawler, the survivors gave a horrific description of how they were tortured, left starving and hacked and shot when they protested the torture.
At least 151 others were injured when a gang of miscreants, linked with the traffickers, from Myanmar opened fire on the trawler around noon on Wednesday. Twelve more Bangladeshis have remained missing ever since.
"The traffickers hacked many people in front of our eyes with sharp weapons and dumped the bodies in the sea. If searched, the bodies of many people will be found [in the sea]," said Zahidul Islam, a survivor from Sujanagar upazila in Pabna, at Cox's Bazar Sadar Hospital.
Zahidul along with 28 critically injured Bangladeshis and two traffickers -- both Thai nationals -- were taken to Teknaf from St Martin's Island around 2:00am yesterday. All of them were bullet-hit. They were undergoing treatment at Cox's Bazar Sadar Hospital. Bodies of the five were also taken to the hospital for autopsy.
The Coast Guard took the remaining 281 Bangladeshis, who were on the 120-foot trawler during the firing, to Teknaf from St Martin yesterday afternoon and handed them over to Teknaf police.
Moktar Hossain, officer-in-charge of Teknaf Police Station, said police would hand over the survivors to their families after completing necessary formalities.
The trawler with 333 people, including four traffickers, on board set off for Malaysia from Moheshkhali coast in Cox's Bazar on Monday night. On Wednesday morning, the boat stopped around 12 kilometres south-east off St Martin's Island to take more passengers from the Myanmar coast, which was not far from the spot, according to the survivors.
Talking to The Daily Star yesterday, the survivors said the traffickers started loading the boat with Bangladeshis from about two weeks ago before finally setting out for Malaysia.
"I was boarded on the trawler from Teknaf 15 days ago. Then the traffickers took other people on small boats and put them on the trawlers at different places," said Mizan, 26, from Narsingdi's Raipura.
Once they were put on board, their miseries began.
"They used to give us food only once a day. Around 4:00pm every day, we would be given some flattened rice and molasses only. No more food until the next day. If we felt thirsty and couldn't endure it, they would give us only a small cup of water," said Rahim, adding that the traffickers would often beat them if they wanted something.
Rahim, who hails from Raipura, Narsingdi, said a scuffle broke out on Wednesday morning when they protested the torture.
"Within a moment, it turned into a clash," he said.
The traffickers then talked to their accomplices in Myanmar through mobile phone and within a very short time, they arrived in three boats and started firing at us, he said, adding one of the traffickers jumped off the trawler and swam to one of the boats in the meantime.
"A number of miscreants from the boats then boarded our trawler and stared hacking away indiscriminately. They dumped some bodies in the sea before leaving," Rahim continued.
Meanwhile, Cox's Bazar police yesterday arrested two people from a hotel in the town based on information from the survivors. The arrested are Prakash Pal and Jahangir Alam.
One survivor named Mujib Mia identified them as members of the trafficking gang, saying that the duo had put him on the trawler.
Earlier, the Coast Guard detained three human traffickers -- Thai nationals Sang and Mong and Myanmar national Abdul Gafur -- after towing the boat to St Martin's Island from the Bay at 5:00pm Wednesday.
A case has been filed against the trio for trafficking people to Malaysia and killing five Bangladeshis, said Lt Kazi Harun-ar-Rashid, commander of Coast Guard's Teknaf station.