Wednesday, September 27News That Matters

Huge fire destroys world’s largest refugee camp

Bangladesh authorities are investigating the cause of a massive fire in a Rohingya refugee camp which has left 12,000 people without shelter.

There have been no recorded injuries, but according to officials, the fire on Sunday destroyed 2,000 shelters after quickly spreading through cooking gas cylinders.

Authorities are looking into whether the fire was intentionally set. According to local media, one individual has been detained.

The camp in the southeast is thought to be the biggest refugee camp on earth.

Rohingya refugees who made up the majority of the population had fled persecution in neighboring Burma.

Several people visited the Cox’s Bazar region again on Monday to see what they could save from the ruins.

An official reported that the fire broke out around 14:45 local time on Sunday (08:45 GMT) and spread fast to the bamboo and tarpaulin shelters.

Some 2,000 shelters have been burnt, leaving about 12,000 forcibly displaced Myanmar nationals shelterless,” Mijanur Rahman, Bangladesh’s refugee commissioner, told AFP news agency

After three hours, the fire was put out, but at least 35 mosques and 21 refugee learning centers perished in the process, he added.

Causes of the fire

Pictures that indicate the scale of the destruction are now starting to surface.

Many of the residents can be seen rummaging around the burned area, where all that is left are metal supports and singed corrugated roofs.

Rohingya refugees search for their belongings after a fire broke out in Balukhali refugee camp in Ukhia, Cox's bazar, Bangladesh, 05 March 2023.

The camp has suffered “severe damage,” according to Hrusikesh Harichandan of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, who spoke to the BBC.

He claimed that fundamental services including water treatment facilities and testing labs had also been impacted.

Rohingya refugee camp that has been destroyed after a fire broke out

Around a million Rohingya refugees are housed at Camp 11, one of many camps spread throughout the border district.

With the “mega camp’s” existing congested conditions, it will be challenging to move the estimated 12,000 fire victims, according to Hardin Lang of Refugees International.

It would be difficult to provide basic services to those people in other areas of the camp because numerous facilities, including schools and health centers, have been destroyed.

“This is in essence an acute incident on what was already a chronically very vulnerable and precariously poised population,” he told the BBC.

Condition og the Camp

The camps are prone to fires because they are crowded and filthy.

According to a Bangladeshi defense ministry report published last month, there were 222 fire incidents, including 60 charges of arson, in the Rohingya camps between January 2021 and December 2022.

At least 15 individuals were killed and about 50,000 people were forced to flee their homes in March 2021 after a massive fire ravaged a camp inside the community.

Refugees who fled Myanmar after the military repressed the Rohingya ethnic minority now reside at the camp.

The Rohingya are Muslims who live in Myanmar, which is primarily Buddhist, and have long been persecuted.

In August 2017, as Myanmar’s military ruthlessly responded after a Rohingya insurgent group attacked multiple police checkpoints, the most recent exodus of Rohingya fled to Bangladesh.

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