Fire at Rohingya Camp in Bangladesh Leaves Hundreds Homeless

A large fire tore through a crowded Rohingya camp in Bangladesh, destroying hundreds of shelters and forcing thousands of refugees to flee in the winter chill.

Fire at Rohingya Camp in Bangladesh Leaves Hundreds Homeless Photo

A large fire tore through a crowded Rohingya camp in the Cox’s Bazar area of Bangladesh on Thursday, destroying hundreds of ramshackle shelters and forcing thousands of displaced Muslim refugees to flee in the winter chill.

The blaze claimed no lives but left hundreds of people without homes, according to aid workers and officials. It struck at a time when officials in Bangladesh look for long-term solutions for the hundreds of thousands of refugees who have crossed its border from Myanmar in recent years.

The fire erupted around 1 a.m. in the Nayapara refugee camp in southeastern Bangladesh. Fire service officials there said that the fire was brought under control within two hours and that they had opened an investigation to determine the cause.

About 550 shelters were lost, as well as shops and other facilities, said the Inter Sector Coordination Group, a humanitarian organization that works with the refugees who have gathered in Cox’s Bazar.

Residents said huge flames quickly spread from one edge and enveloped the whole camp. Some said that firefighters initially struggled to douse the flames amid the chaos, as people in neighboring camps also fled to escape the blaze.

“When I opened my eyes, I saw fire everywhere,” said Haleema Khatoon, who lived in the camp along with her two children and husband and said she lost everything in the blaze. “The sky turned red and smoke was everywhere.”

The Inter Sector Coordination Group said that local fire officials arrived quickly and were able to contain the blaze. “We reached the area quickly and tried to douse the fire,” said Mohammad Abdullah, a Cox’s Bazar Fire Service official. “But fire spread fast and destroyed dwellings.”

Ms. Khatoon, 34, fled the Rakhine State in 2017 and gave birth to her second child in the camp. She said she had turned her small hut into a home for her family. Now, she said, she and her family had no food to eat and nowhere to go.

More than 730,000 Rohingya, a predominantly Muslim ethnic group, have fled Myanmar to Bangladesh since a campaign of killing, rape and arson began against them in 2017. The town of Cox’s Bazar, in southern Bangladesh, has turned into a makeshift home for hundreds of thousands of Rohingya refugees fleeing the campaign of violence carried out by Myanmar’s army. The Rohingya have been persecuted relentlessly by the government and mobs of Buddhists, who make up the majority in Myanmar.

The settlements there turned into mega camps as the huge influx of desperate people fleeing war or persecution continued to trickle in. Onno van Manen, a country director for Save the Children in Bangladesh, said the fire was yet another devastating blow for the displaced Rohingya Muslims.

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