Asia - Pacific

Devastating fire guts nearly 1,000 Rohingya tents in Bangladesh

No deaths, injuries reported amid pending investigation on cause of blaze, now doused, says official

Md. Kamruzzaman   | 09.01.2022
Devastating fire guts nearly 1,000 Rohingya tents in Bangladesh

DHAKA, Bangladesh 

A deadly fire that ripped through a Rohingya refugee camp in southern Bangladesh on Sunday has reduced hundreds of makeshift tents, education centers, Islamic seminaries, and mosques, according to official sources.

"We are initially predicting that nearly 1,000 structures have been burned down. But no deaths and injuries have been reported," said Shihab Kaisar Khan, the police commander at the crammed Camp 16, located in the district of Cox's Bazar where more than 1.1 million Rohingya have fled a brutal military crackdown in neighboring Myanmar’s Rakhine State since August 2017.

Speaking to Anadolu Agency, Khan added that the cause of the blaze would become clear only after a formal investigation.

The fire was doused after almost two hours of hectic efforts by eight local firefighting and civil defense units, along with hundreds of Rohingya residents of the camp in the Ukhiya area.

A food distribution center of the Turkish Cooperation and Coordination Agency (TIKA) has also been burned down in the latest fire incident at the world’s largest refugee settlements.

Bangladesh's Refugee Relief and Repatriation Commissioner, Shah Rezwan Hayat, told Anadolu Agency that their staff, along with members of other agencies working at the camps, were conducting search and rescue efforts at the site.

"We hope that despite the damage on a huge number of settlements, there are no cases of death or injury," Hayat said, adding that authorities would conduct a thorough investigation to uncover the fire's cause.

An on-duty fire service official, Emdadul Haq, told Anadolu Agency that it would not be wise to say at this point whether the fire broke out due to an electric short circuit or cooking gas cylinder.

"Under the supervision of our authorities, we're going to investigate the incident and then ascertain the exact cause of the fire," he said.

Video footage of the fire shared on social media showed the flames spreading rapidly.

Last Sunday, the camp's COVID-19 isolation center had been severely damaged in a fire. No casualties were reported and all patients under treatment, including those under isolation, were safely evacuated.

In July last year, more than 60 makeshift tents in the world's largest refugee settlements had also been gutted in a fire.

The persecuted people, however, faced the deadliest fire in one of their camps on March 22 last year, with at least 15 members of the community killed and more than 10,000 Rohingya structures and tents completely destroyed, including a large camp-based Turkish Field Hospital.

Another fire killed three people -- all Rohingya -- and damaged seven shops in the camp's market on April 2, while four tents, including an Islamic seminary (Madrassah), burned down on April 12 of the same year.

Months earlier in mid-January, another deadly fire destroyed more than 500 Rohingya shanties. Dozens of other minor fires also took place in the congested Rohingya camps over the last couple of years.

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