Several people have died and hundreds more are missing at a refugee camp full of Rohingya Muslims in Bangladesh.
A massive fire has killed at least 15 people in a Rohingya refugee camp in Bangladesh, while at least 400 remain missing, the UN refugee agency said on Thursday.
The fire ripped through the Balukhali camp near the southeastern town of Cox's Bazar late on Monday, burning down thousands of shanty houses. People ran for their lives.
“Everything has gone. Thousands are without homes,” Aman Ullah, a Rohingya refugee from the Balukhali camp, told Reuters.
“The fire was brought under control after six hours but some parts of the camp could be seen smoking all night long,” Ullah said.
UNHCR’s Johannes Van der Klaauw, who joined a Geneva briefing virtually from Dhaka, Bangladesh, described the incident as "massive" and "devastating".
“We still have 400 people unaccounted for, maybe somewhere in the rubble,” Klaauw said.
According to UNHCR, more than 550 people were injured and nearly 45,000 displaced.
Bangladeshi officials said they are investigating the cause of the massive blaze even as emergency and aid workers and families sift through the debris looking for further victims.
Bangladeshi authorities have so far confirmed 11 deaths.
Aid workers have been carrying out rescue and search operations to reunite Rohingya Muslim families separated due to the mishap.
Civil defence teams, fire departments, Bangladesh Red Crescent teams, volunteers and disaster specialists in the permanent delegation of the Turkish Red Crescent have joined the effort, it added.
Snigdha Chakraborty, country manager for the Catholic Relief Services aid group, said “most people scattered to other camps to stay with friends or relatives.”
“We must ensure that any children who were separated from their families during the evacuation are reunited quickly.”
However, she did not share any estimation for how many children had been left on their own.
The Turkish Field Hospital in Cox’s Bazar, which had been providing vital health services to the Rohingya in the region, was rendered completely inoperable by the fire.
Moreover, another major hospital, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) that sat within the camp, was also destroyed.
Rohingya Muslims fled Myanmar in 2017 after a military-led crackdown targeted them. The UN investigators said the military operations in Rohingya villages were executed with “genocidal intent.”
Since August 25, 2017, nearly 24,000 Rohingya Muslims have been killed by Myanmar’s state forces, according to a report by the Ontario International Development Agency (OIDA).
More than 34,000 Rohingya were also thrown into fires, while over 114,000 others were beaten, said the OIDA report, titled "Forced Migration of Rohingya: The Untold Experience".
Some 18,000 Rohingya women and girls were raped by Myanmar’s army and police. Over 115,000 Rohingya homes were burned down while 113,000 others were vandalised, it added.