Dhaka, March 23
At least 15 people were killed and 400 were reported missing after a massive overnight fire swept through a crammed Rohingya camp in Bangladesh’s south-eastern Cox’s Bazar district, destroying thousands of shelters housing over 45,000 people, a senior UN official said on Tuesday.
Rescuers on Tuesday recovered the 15 bodies. Hundreds of people injured in the fire are being treated at nearby hospitals.
“We have so far confirmed 15 people dead, 560 injured, 400 are still missing and at least 10,000 shelters have been destroyed,” UN Refugee agency (UNHCR) spokesman Johannes van der Klaauw said virtually joining a news briefing in Geneva from Dhaka.
“We still have 400 people unaccounted for, maybe somewhere in the rubble” as the blaze destroyed at least 10,000 provisional shelters which were makeshift tarp and bamboo-made abode of over 45,000 people.
“What we have seen in this fire is something we have never seen before in these camps. It is massive. It is devastating,” Klaauw added.
Bangladesh officials initially reported seven deaths as searches were underway. Alongside the shelters, the fire destroyed six makeshift health facilities, including four bigger hospitals.
The Bangladesh authorities are yet to confirm the death toll.
But the government’s Deputy Chief Refugee Commissioner Shamsud Douza said it was the biggest fire since the influx of Rohingya from Myanmar in August 2017 following a brutal military crackdown back home.
He said an official investigation was launched to ascertain the cause of the fire.
Bangladesh is hosting over 1.1 million Rohingya refugees in Cox’s Bazar, who fled Myanmar facing military crackdown, often considered as “ethnic cleansing” by many rights groups.
The fate of the refugees’ return to their country remains uncertain as Myanmar’s military seized power last month detaining the country’s de-facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi.
The military coup took place at a time when Bangladesh was spearheading a desperate campaign for safe return of some 1.1 million Rohingyas. PTI