(GENEVA) UNHCR REPORT: The death toll from a massive fire that ripped through a Rohingya refugee camp in Bangladesh has risen to at least 15, with another 400 people missing #AceNewsDesk report

#AceNewsReport – Mar.25: “ It is massive, it is devastating,” said UNHCR’s Johannes Van der Klaauw, who joined a Geneva briefing virtually from Dhaka, Bangladesh:

Rohingya camp fire death toll rises to 15, with 400 still missing in Bangladesh: The UNHCR says Mondays fire has left more than 550 people injured and about 45,000 displaced.

A charred scene of burnt out villages as people rake over the smoldering wreckage.
More than 17,000 Rohingya shelters were destroyed by the fire in south-eastern Bangladesh.(Reuters: Ro Yassin )

Posted 3h ago, updated 2h ago

“We still have 400 people unaccounted for, maybe somewhere in the rubble,” he said.

Bangladeshi officials are investigating the cause of the fire as officials, aid workers and families sift through the debris looking for further victims.

The fire ripped through the Balukhali camp near the south-eastern town of Cox’s Bazar, burning through thousands of shanties as people scrambled to save their possessions.

Villagers run in panic as a big flame engulfs village in front of them.
The fire took six hours to bring under control, spreading over four sections of the camp.(Reuters)

“Everything has gone. Thousands are without homes,” said Aman Ullah, a Rohingya refugee from the Balukhali camp.

“The fire was brought under control after six hours but some parts of the camp could be seen smoking all night long.”

Police have so far confirmed seven deaths.

“The cause of the fire is still unknown” and authorities were investigating the matter, Zakir Hossain Khan, a senior police official said by telephone from the camps.Loading

Sanjeev Kafley, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies’ delegation head in Bangladesh, said more than 17,000 shelters had been destroyed and tens of thousands of people displaced.

More than 1,000 Red Cross staff and volunteers worked with fire services to extinguish the blaze, spread over four sections of the camp containing roughly 124,000 people, Mr Kafley said.

That represents around one-tenth of an estimated 1 million Rohingya refugees in the area.

A night-time shot of a brightly lit fire with sparks of flames in shanty town.
The cause of the worst fire to hit Cox’s Bazar remains a mystery.(Reuters)

“I have been in Cox’s Bazar for three-and-a-half years and have never seen such a fire,” he said.

“These people have been displaced two times. For many, there is nothing left.”

Barbed wire hampers rescue efforts

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, which estimated 50,000 people had been displaced, 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.

An old Asian woman sits with a white bag of belongings in front of burnt out village.
Survivors of the fire at the Balukhali camp escaped with meagre possessions.(Reuters: Ro Yassin Abdumonab )

John Quinley of Fortify Rights, a rights organisation working with the Rohingya people, 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,” Mr 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. 

Addtional Reporting: Reuters/ABC/Azadi News

#AceNewsDesk report ……….Published: Mar.25: 2021:

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