Blaze at Cox’s Bazar on Monday killed at least 15 people, leaving 400 others missing and 45,000 more homeless as it ripped through their flimsy bamboo-and-tarpaulin shelters, UN Refugee Agency said.
Fifteen people have so far been confirmed dead and 400 are still missing in the huge blaze at the Rohingya refugee camp in Cox's Bazar in Bangladesh, the United Nations said.
"What we have seen in this fire is something we have never seen before in these camps. It is massive. It is devastating," Johannes van der Klaauw, the UN Refugee Agency's representative in Bangladesh, told reporters in Geneva via video-link from Dhaka.
"We have so far confirmed 15 people dead, 560 injured, 400 are still missing and at least 10,000 shelters have been destroyed. That means at least 45,000 people are being displaced and for whom we now seek provisional shelter."
Officials investigating cause of fire
Bangladeshi authorities have begun investigating the cause of the fire, as officials have sifted through the debris looking for more victims.
The fire ripped through the Balukhali camp near the southeastern town of Cox's Bazar late on Monday, burning through thousands of hutments as people scrambled to save their meagre possessions.
"One Rohingya #refugee told us today that the tragedy of the fire felt like reliving the devastation the #Rohingya experienced in Myanmar in 2017”— Refugees International (@RefugeesIntl) March 22, 2021
A fire in Bangladesh has devastated Rohingya camps.
Read our reaction:https://t.co/6n20Aj0GAE
Cause of fire being determined
"The cause of the fire is still unknown," Khan told Reuters by telephone from the camps. "Authorities are investigating to determine the cause of the fire."
Sanjeev Kafley, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies's delegation head in Bangladesh, said more than 17,000 shelters had been destroyed in the blaze, and tens of thousands had been displaced.
The fire spread over four sections of the camp containing roughly 124,000 people, around one-tenth of the more than 1 million Rohingya refugees in the area, he added.
"I have been in Cox's Bazar for three and a half years and have never seen such a fire," he told Reuters. "These people have been displaced two times. For many there is nothing left."
In yesterday's fire at the #Rohingya refugee camp in Cox Bazar, Bangladesh, at least 20,000 have lost their shanty homes & 10 died. 3rd fire to hit the camp in 4 days. The barbed wire fence by the Bangladeshi govt around the camp made it impossible for people to escape the fire. pic.twitter.com/UBiDHp5XkY— Ashok Swain (@ashoswai) March 23, 2021
Trapped within barbed wire
Some witnesses said that barbed wire fencing around the camp trapped many people, hurting some and leading international humanitarian agencies to call for its removal.
Humanitarian organisation Refugees International said the extent of the damage may not be known for some time.
"Many children are missing, and some were unable to flee because of barbed wire set up in the camps," it said in a statement.
John Quinley of Fortify Rights, a rights organisation working with Rohingya, said he had heard similar reports, adding the fences had hampered the distribution of humanitarian aid and vital services at the camps in the past.
"The government must remove the fences and protect refugees," Quinley said.
"There have now been a number of large fires in the camps including a large fire in January this year... The authorities must do a proper investigation into the cause of the fires."
The vast majority of the people in the camps fled Myanmar in 2017 amid a military-led crackdown on the Rohingya that UN investigators said was executed with "genocidal intent", charges Myanmar denies.