A huge fire on Thursday tore through a Rohingya refugee camp, destroying more than 550 shanty homes. While 3,500 people were left homeless, no casualties were reported, aid agencies said.
The blaze started when most people in the sprawling Nayapara camp were asleep. Tens of thousands of members of the Muslim minority who in 2017 fled a military crackdown in neighboring Myanmar live in the overcrowded camp.
International aid agencies said in a joint statement that it took firefighters two hours to bring the “devastating” fire under control.
“Very fortunately, no deaths or serious injuries have been reported, and the few people with minor injuries have been released after initial treatment,” the Inter-Sector Coordination Group said.
The agencies estimated that some 3,500 people had been left homeless after more than 550 of the tin and bamboo shelters were destroyed along with a community center and several shops.
The fire started at about 2:00am and was suspected to have been caused by a cooking cylinder, Bangladeshi Refugee Relief and Repatriation Commissioner Rezwan Hayat said.
About 10 people had been injured, he said.
Residents quoted by aid workers said that huge flames quickly engulfed the shanties.
“We have immediately supplied hot food and bamboo and tarpaulins to the affected people to reconstruct their homes,” Hayat said.
Nayapara is one of a string of camps in the Cox’s Bazar district of southeastern Bangladesh where more than 900,000 Rohingya live. About 700,000 fled across the border in 2017 after the Myanmar crackdown that the UN has said could be genocide.
Save the Children country director in Bangladesh Onno van Manen said that the fire was “another devastating blow for the Rohingya people who have endured unspeakable hardship for years.”
The fire was “another ghastly reminder” that children in the camps “face a bleak future with little freedom of movement, inadequate access to education, poverty, serious protection risks and abuse including child marriage,” Van Manen said.
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