Massive fire breaks out at Rohingya refugee camp in Bangladesh

Dhaka, Mar 22 (efe-epa).- A massive fire on Monday engulfed a large part of a Rohingya refugee camp in southeastern Bangladesh, causing severe damage to shelters that house hundreds of thousands of refugees, although no casualties have been reported so far.

The fire broke out around 3.20 pm in a camp situated in the Balukhali area of the Cox’s Bazar district, an official at the local firefighters’ control room told EFE.

Cox’s Bazar police spokesperson Rafiqul Islam said that flames had spread over “a vast area” and the authorities were still trying to bring them under control.

Firefighters, police officers and district administration officials have been deployed in the area.

Islam confirmed that no casualties had been reported so far.

The office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees said that the fire had affected shelters, health centers, distribution points and other facilities.

The highly congested camps in Cox’s Bazar are susceptible to such incidents due to lack of facilities and the fragile huts made of wood, bamboo and plastic that dot the area, although there are concerns that some fires might have been started deliberately.

In January, another fire left around 3,500 Rohingyas without a roof on their heads, after the flames destroyed more than 500 huts.

Days later, UNICEF flagged the deliberate burning of four educational centers for Rohingyas.

Meanwhile controversy continues to surround the Bangladesh authorities’ attempt to relocate around 100,000 Rohingyas to the remote Bhasan Char island in order to decongest the camps.

The process kicked off in December with a first batch of 3,500 refugees and around 12,400 people have been transferred to the island so far.

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


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