The fire hit Balukhali camp, one of 32 camps in Cox’s Bazar district home to more than 1.2 million people.
A massive fire swept through a packed refugee camp for Rohingya Muslims in southern Bangladesh, leaving thousands homeless, a firefighter and the United Nations said.
The fire hit Camp 11 in Cox’s Bazar, a border district home to more than a million Rohingya refugees, most of whom fled a military-led crackdown in Myanmar in 2017.
“We currently have no damage estimate, but there are no reports of casualties,” Rafiqul Islam, an additional police inspector at Cox’s Bazar, told Reuters news agency.
Islam added that the fire was under control and senior officials from the fire, police and refugee relief departments were present at the site.
Bangladesh’s UNHCR said in a tweet that Rohingya refugee volunteers responded to the blaze, while the agency and its partners provided support. It said multiple shelters and facilities had been destroyed due to fires.
Al Jazeera’s Tanvir Chowdhury reported from Dhaka that Balukhali Camp is one of 32 camps in Cox’s Bazar, home to more than 1.2 million people.
“The fire is still burning and appears to have been caused by a boiling cylinder. Most houses are made of bamboo, so the fire spreads quickly,” said Chowdhury.
He explained that the region where the fire broke out is quite hilly, making it difficult for rescue teams to reach and for families to escape.
“The health facilities (in the area) are very rudimentary to be able to respond quickly. There are many field hospitals, but not enough to treat 1.2 million people,” he added.
Rohingya refugee volunteers trained in firefighting and local firefighters have brought the blaze under control.
16 UNHCR-funded mobile firefighting units helped reach the difficult area.
Multiple shelters and facilities destroyed.
Government, UNHCR & partners coordinate further. pic.twitter.com/6qlerHlwbw
— UNHCR in Bangladesh (@UNHCR_BGD) March 5, 2023
More than a million Rohingya refugees have fled Myanmar to Bangladesh in recent decades, including about 740,000 who crossed the border in August 2017 when Myanmar’s military cracked down.
Conditions in Myanmar have worsened since a military takeover in 2021, and attempts to return them have failed.
Last year, the United States said its repression of Rohingya in Myanmar amounts to genocide after US authorities confirmed reports of mass brutality against civilians by the military in a systematic campaign against the ethnic minority.
The predominantly Muslim Rohingya face widespread discrimination in Myanmar, where Buddhists are a majority and most are denied citizenship and many other rights.