Thousands homeless after fire guts Rohingya camp in B'desh
Mar 06, 2023
Dhaka [Bangladesh], March 6: A massive fire raced through a crammed refugee camp for Rohingya Muslims in southern Bangladesh, leaving thousands homeless, a fire official and the United Nations said.
The blaze hit Camp 11 in Cox's Bazar, a border district where more than a million Rohingya refugees live, with most having fled a military-led crackdown in Myanmar in 2017.
"We currently don't have an estimate for damages but there are no reports of casualties," Rafiqul Islam, additional police superintendent at Cox's Bazar, told Reuters news agency.
Islam added that the blaze was under control and senior officials from the fire, police and refugee relief departments were present at the site.
The UNHCR in Bangladesh said in a tweet that Rohingya refugee volunteers were responding to the fire with the agency and its partners providing support. It said multiple shelters and facilities had been destroyed as a result of fires.
Reporting from Dhaka, Al Jazeera's Tanvir Chowdhury said Balukhali Camp is one of the 32 camps in Cox's Bazar, where more than 1.2 million people are living.
"The fire is still on and seems to have been caused by a cooking cylinder. Most of the homes are made of bamboo so the fire spreads quickly," said Chowdhury.
He explained that the region where the fire broke out is quite hilly, making it difficult for rescue to teams to reach it and for families to escape.
"The health facilities [in the area] are very rudimentary to have a fast response. There are a lot of field hospitals but not enough to respond to 1.2 million people," he added.
More than one million Rohingya refugees have fled to Bangladesh from Myanmar over several decades, including about 740,000 who crossed the border starting in August 2017, when the Myanmar military launched a brutal crackdown.
Conditions in Myanmar have worsened since a military takeover in 2021, and attempts to send them back have failed.
Last year, the United States said the oppression of Rohingya in Myanmar amounts to genocide after US authorities confirmed accounts of mass atrocities against civilians by the military in a systematic campaign against the ethnic minority.
Mostly Muslim Rohingya face widespread discrimination in Buddhist-majority Myanmar, where most are denied citizenship and many other rights.
Source: Qatar Tribune