Fifteen people have died and at least 400 are missing after another “devastating” fire tore through the camp on Monday evening, leaving 45,000 displaced, according to the United Nations refugee agency UNHCR.
The “massive” blaze at the Balukhali camp, in Bangladesh’s southeastern town of Cox’s Bazar, saw thousands of shelters reduced to rubble and possessions destroyed.
A terrible fire has swept the Rohingya camps in #Bangladesh – aid workers saying it’s the largest there yet. Refugees say people have been killed & thousands of homes destroyed. The fire continues to blaze tonight. Video by Rohingya Right Team/MD Arakani via @Reuters. pic.twitter.com/0ZcSxrTEXH
— Poppy McPherson (@poppymcp) March 22, 2021
With 550 people having been injured and more than 400 so far unaccounted for, UNHCR’s representative in Bangladesh, Johannes Van Der Klaauw, described the scenes as “devastating”. The current death toll of 15 looks certain to rise.
A general view of a Rohingya refugee camp after a fire burned down all the shelters in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, March 23, 2021. REUTERS pic.twitter.com/wyJ8I2KhJa
— soe zeya tun (@soezeya) March 23, 2021
The cause of the fire is not yet known, and Bangladeshi officials were on the scene on Tuesday carrying out an investigation.
One of the residents of the camp, Aman Ullah, told reporters that “everything has gone” and “thousands are without homes” as a result of the conflagration. He described seeing smoke billowing from the site of the blaze “all night long.”
The humanitarian-aid organization the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies arrived promptly on the scene to help tackle the fire, which spread through four sections of the camp in which some 124,000 people are believed to have resided.
On Tuesday, Sanjeev Kafley, of the Red Cross, bleakly explained that “these people have been displaced two times. For many, there is nothing left.”
A fire has broken out in the #Rohingya camps. Fire services, RRRC, rescue & response teams are at the scene trying to control the fire & prevent further spread. Humanitarian partners have mobilized hundreds of volunteers w equipment to combat the fire & support those affected pic.twitter.com/gEXfmDdEoj
— UNHCR in Bangladesh (@UNHCR_BGD) March 22, 2021
It’s not the first time this year that a fire has ripped through a camp in Cox’s Bazar. The area saw two blazes in January alone, one having been described by UNICEF as an “arson attack.” The destruction caused by those earlier incidents destroyed 550 homes, displacing 3,500 refugees.
Nearly a million Rohingya Muslims are thought to have fled Myanmar and sought refuge in camps in Bangladesh after a 2017 crackdown by the regime on their people – a stateless group often described as the world’s most persecuted minority. International organizations, including the UN, have condemned their treatment as a “textbook example of ethnic cleansing.”
Myanmar’s government, which was removed from power in a February coup by the military, repeatedly denied targeting Rohingya people.
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