23 May 2024

A fire destroyed 2,000 shelters at a Rohingya refugee camp in southeastern Bangladesh on Sunday, leaving around 12,000 people homeless, an official said.

The fire broke out around 2:45 pm (0845 GMT) at camp number 11 in Kutupalong, one of the world’s largest refugee settlements, and rapidly engulfed the bamboo-and-tarpaulin shelters, Mijanur Rahman, Bangladesh’s refugee commissioner, told AFP.

“Some 2,000 shelters have been burnt, leaving about 12,000 forcibly displaced Myanmar nationals shelterless,” he said.

At least 35 mosques and 21 learning centres for the refugees were also destroyed, though there were no reports of any injuries or deaths, he added.

“My shelter was gutted. (My shop) was also burnt,” said Mamun Johar, a 30-year-old Rohingya man.

“The fire took everything from me, everything.”

The blaze was brought under control in less than three hours.

It was not clear how the fire started. The authorities have ordered an investigation.

Fires are common in the camps where nearly one million Rohingya refugees live in squalid conditions.

Most of them fled a military crackdown in Myanmar’s Rakhine state in 2017 and took refuge in Bangladesh.

A Bangladesh defence ministry report last month said that between January 2021 and December 2022, there were 222 fire incidents in the Rohingya camps — including 60 cases of arson.

In March 2021, in what was the worst blaze in the Rohingya camps, at least 15 people were killed and some 50,000 were displaced after a fire engulfed an entire block in a settlement.

By AFP