Dhaka, Mar 23 (efe-epa).- A massive fire in the Rohingya refugee camp in southeastern Bangladesh left least seven people dead and tens of thousands without without a roof over their heads, the authorities said on Tuesday.
The fire broke out around 3.20 pm on Monday in Balukhali area in Cox’s Bazar district and was brought under control early Tuesday, the regional fire service chief, Shahadat Hossain, told EFE.
“So far we have found seven dead bodies.” Hossain said. “We were able to stop the blaze around 1 am, and brought the fire under complete control by the morning.”
Additional refugee commissioner Mohammad Shamsud Douza said the fire completely destroyed some 1,000-1,500 refugee shelters and partially damaged several thousand others.
“We are still assessing the damage while ensuring emergency support for the victims,” he said.
A video shared on social media showed thick columns of smoke rising from the blazing shanties, as firefighters and volunteers struggled to control the fire and evacuate the refugees.
The office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees said that the fire had affected shelters, health centers, distribution points and other facilities.
Shamsul Alam, a Rohingya refugee, told EFE that the fire also destroyed a hospital, facilities run by nonprofits and houses of many Bangladeshi people near the camp.
The highly congested camps in Cox’s Bazar are susceptible to mishaps due to lack of planning and fragile infrastructure with makeshift huts made of wood, bamboo and plastic.
In January, another fire left around 3,500 Rohingyas without a shelter, as more than 500 huts were destroyed.
However, there have also been concerns about fires being deliberately set. In January, Unicef flagged the deliberate burning of four educational centers for Rohingyas.
Nearly 738,000 Rohingya refugees are living in camps in Bangladesh since Aug. 25, 2017, following a wave of persecution and military crackdown in neighboring Myanmar that the UN described as a textbook example of ethnic cleansing and possible genocide. EFE-EPA