Bangladesh investigates deadly fire at Rohingya refugee camp | Rohingya News

Bangladeshi authorities have started to investigate the cause of a massive fire who killed at least seven people and displaced tens of thousands in a Rohingya refugee camp as officials searched the debris for more casualties.

Fire raged through Balukhali camp near the southeastern town of Cox’s Bazar on Monday evening, burning thousands of huts as people scrambled to save their meager possessions.

The vast majority of people in the camps fled Myanmar in 2017 amid a military crackdown on the Rohingya that UN investigators say was executed with “genocidal intent”, a charge Myanmar denies .

Rohingya refugees dig through rubble in their shelters after camp fire in Cox’s Bazar [Ro Yassin Abdumonab/Reuters]

Police Inspector Gazi Salahuddin said the blaze – the largest in narrow settlements since 2017 – torn through fragile bamboo and tarp shelters and grew up after the explosion of cooking gas cylinders.

Mohammad Yasin, a Rohingya man helping to fight the blaze, told AFP news agency that the blaze had raged for more than 10 hours and was the worst he had seen.

“People ran for their lives as it spread rapidly. Many were injured and I saw at least four bodies, ”said Aminul Haq, a refugee.

Save the Children volunteer Tayeba Begum said: “The children were running crying for their families.”

Police have so far confirmed seven deaths

“We have information on seven people who died in the fire. Among them, three children were buried last night. Today, four bodies have been found…. all of them burned beyond recognition, ”said Zakir Hossain Khan, a senior police official.

“The cause of the fire is still unknown,” Khan told Reuters news agency by telephone from the camps. “Authorities are investigating to determine the cause of the fire.”

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

The fire spread to four sections of the camp housing around 124,000 people, or about a tenth of the region’s more than one million Rohingya refugees, 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 twice. For many, there is nothing left.

Rohingya refugees examine remnants of Monday’s fire in Balukhali camp [Shafiqur Rahman/AP]

Calls to remove barbed wire

Some witnesses said the barbed wire fences around the camp trapped scores of people, injuring some and leading international aid agencies to call for its removal.

Humanitarian organization Refugees International, which estimated that 50,000 people had been displaced by the blaze, said the extent of the damage may not be known for some time.

“Many children are missing and some have not been able to flee because of the barbed wire installed in the camps,” he said in a statement.

John Quinley of Fortify Rights, an advocacy organization working with the Rohingya, said he heard similar reports, adding that the fences had hampered the distribution of humanitarian aid and life-saving services to the camps in the past.

“The government must remove the fences and protect the refugees,” Quinley said. “There have now been a number of large fires in the camps, including a large fire in January of this year … Authorities must conduct a proper investigation into the cause of the fires.”

Third fire in four days

It was the third fire to hit the camps in four days, firefighter chief Sikder, who has only one name, told AFP.

Two separate fires in the camps on Friday destroyed many shelters, officials said. Two large fires also had hit the camps in january, leaving thousands homeless and destroying four UNICEF schools.

Amnesty International South Asia activist Saad Hammadi tweeted that “the frequency of shootings in the camps is too accidental, especially when the results of previous investigations into the incidents are not known and they are keep repeating themselves ”.

“It is not known why these fires occur repeatedly in the camps. There needs to be a proper and full investigation, ”Rohingya leader Sayed Ullah said.

The government has meanwhile pressed for the refugees to be moved to a remote island in the Bay of Bengal, saying the settlements were overcrowded.

So far, 13,000 Rohingya have been displaced to the flood-prone island, which critics say is also on the path of deadly cyclones.

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