A massive fire that swept through the refugee camps of Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, on March 22 has left 10,000 families—roughly 45,000 people—displaced and in urgent need of food, water, and sanitation services. The fire was yet another devastating blow to the Rohingya people who fled shocking violence and persecution in Myanmar.
The fire started at 4pm and spread rapidly for several hours in the densely populated camps, destroying thousands of bamboo and tarpaulin shelters, until government fire and rescue services managed to control the blaze. The damage is extensive and still being assessed, but early reports suggest that 15 people were killed, and at least 560 people were injured, while hundreds remain missing.
“The worst affected areas have been reduced to ash—the only things left standing are shelter foundations and bits of household metal like pots and sewing machines. The level of destruction is unlike anything our team has seen before,” said Enamul Hoque, who leads Oxfam’s Rapid Response Team.
“We are deeply concerned for the safety and wellbeing of the 10,000 families displaced by the fire,” Hoque said. “The blaze has destroyed critical infrastructure, including water stands and sanitation facilities. Refugee families are in urgent need of food, drinking water, and safe toilet facilities.”
Oxfam’s Rohingya volunteers were the first responders, followed by Oxfam’s Rapid Response Team, which deployed immediately with water trucks—on standby for such emergencies—and rushed to the camps to help extinguish the blaze. The team also transported water in jerry cans to refugees in areas that the water trucks could not reach. Barbed wire fencing around the camps impeded both refugees’ ability to escape and the Oxfam response team’s ability to provide aid in time and at scale.
“The Rapid Response team worked through the night, setting up water tankers and installing tap stands to distribute emergency drinking water. The team also provided displaced refugees with hygiene kits and emergency latrines,” Hoque said.
In the coming weeks, Oxfam will also work with partners to distribute food and household essentials like solar lights. Oxfam has helped about 22,750 fire survivors so far with clean water, jerry cans, and desludging of latrines. Oxfam staff estimate they are helping about 60 percent of the people affected by the fires.
Last month, a massive fire swept through the largest refugee camp in the world in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, where nearly one million Rohingya refugees live. The fire took 15 lives and burned down thousands of shelters and health facilities, leaving more than 45,0000 people displaced.
Our teams met Ismael, 35, in the middle of the crowds and confusion. Ashes and burned debris are all we could see. His eyes fixed on the horizon, Ismael told one of Action Against Hunger’s psychosocial workers: “I was in the tea shop when I heard a fire broke out. How many more times I may witness my shelter being burnt down to ashes…”
For Ismael and his neighbors, the fire brings painful memories of their flight to Bangladesh in 2017. Hundreds of thousands of Rohingya saw their homes burned and communities razed, forcing them to flee Rakhine State nearly four years ago. “They burned my house and all that I had in it,” recalls Ismael.
Today, living in overcrowded camps, the plight of the displaced Rohingya remains extremely fragile. “In the light of raging fires, my future is still obscure,” says Ismael.
The fire destroyed homes, belongings, and important documents, including identification and data cards, that allow Rohingya refugees to work and access food and essential services in Cox’s Bazar. Many people, particularly children, were separated from their families as they ran to find safety amidst extreme chaos and confusion.
Repeated shocks and stresses have caused a spike in mental health needs. Action Against Hunger teams are on the ground, working tirelessly to provide psychological first aid, in addition to serving meals, rehabilitating facilities and water points, and reconnecting families.
When they fled Myanmar, Ismael stepped up to serve as a community leader known as a Majhi. “Helping people gives me hope,” he says. “It keeps me going.”
As Majhi, he feels a great responsibility to care for his community. In the wake of the fire, he has not been able to stop thinking about the victims trapped in the blaze – and what more he could have done to help them: “I could have acted promptly…I was sure that the fire would not reach our block.”
A fire has destroyed more than 20 shops in a makeshift market near a Rohingya refugee camp in southern Bangladesh, killing at least three people, police and witnesses said.Local police chief Ahmed Sanjur Morshed on Friday said they recovered the bodies from the debris after it took firefighters several hours to bring the blaze under control.
Several other people were injured in the blaze, the second deadly fire in less than two weeks.
The fire broke out early on Friday when residents of the sprawling Kutupalong camp – home to more than 600,000 Rohingya refugees from Myanmar – were asleep.
“We had five workers who slept in the shop but three of them were missing. Then after the fire was put out with water, we found one body first, then all three. Two people survived by the grace of Allah,” Aneesul Mustafa, a Rohingya refugee and the owner’s relative, told The Associated Press news agency.
It was not clear how the fire began.Local fire chief Imdadul Hoque said the latest blaze would have been catastrophic had it not been quickly controlled as the market is close to tens of thousands of highly inflammable bamboo and tarpaulin shanties where most of the Rohingya live.
Two other serious fires this year have also set alarm bells ringing over safety conditions in the camps where about one million of the Muslim refugees have been living since fleeing military clampdowns in neighbouring Myanmar in recent years.Aid agencies and the government had started rebuilding shelters after a massive fire on March 22 killed 15 people, while 560 others were injured and about 45,000 became homeless. They are still investigating the cause of that blaze.In January, a fire swept through at Nayapara camp, another Rohingya refugee camp in Cox’s Bazar that left thousands without shelter. According to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, more than 550 shelters – home to at least 3,500 people – were either totally or partially destroyed in the blaze, as well as 150 shops and a facility belonging to a non-profit organisation.
At least three Rohingya refugees were killed and seven shops were gutted when a fire broke out early Friday in a market at the Kutupalong refugee camp in Bangladesh’s southern district of Cox’s Bazar, in the second such incident in the past 10 days, according to official sources.
“We have recovered three bodies from inside the gutted shops,” Md Abdullah, deputy assistant director of Cox’s Bazar Fire Service and Civil Defense, told Anadolu Agency.
The fire reportedly occurred around 3:30 a.m. local time (GMT2130) and was brought under control within an hour by members of the local fire service and Rohingya residents.
The identities of the dead are still unknown, while authorities are currently investigating the incident.
“We have already handed over the bodies to the police to proceed with the autopsies,” said Abdullah, adding all three of the deceased are male and have been primarily identified as workers at the shops.
He said the authorities are now very alert after the last massive fire in the camps so that in case one breaks out, they can promptly control the spread of the blaze.
A deadly fire on March 22 gutted more than 10,000 tents in the world’s largest refugee settlement, located in Bangladesh, leaving at least 15 people dead and more than 550 injured, according to a UN report.
At least 45,000 Rohingya were also internally displaced following the fire, which also destroyed shops, learning centers, a Turkish hospital, health clinics and other official settlements.
More than 1.2 million Rohingya who mostly fled a brutal military crackdown in Myanmar’s Rakhine State in August 2017 are currently living in the crammed makeshift camps in Bangladesh which pose a fire risk as many of them are using gas cylinders for cooking.
In some previous fire incidents in Rohingya camps, gas cylinders were reportedly deemed one of the main causes for the blazes and their rapid spread.
In the last month, fires rapidly spread due to the explosion of gas cylinders one after another, according to eyewitnesses, who also claimed that Rohingya are not familiar with using gas cylinders.
A fire has swept through a sprawling Rohingya refugee camp in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, destroying shelters and endangering the lives of tens of thousands of refugees, the UN refugee agency UNHCR reported Monday.
A huge fire swept through Rohingya refugee camps in southern Bangladesh early Thursday, the United Nations said, destroying homes belonging to thousands of people.
The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) said more than 550 shelters — home to about 3,500 people — were either totally or partially destroyed in the blaze, as well as 150 shops and a facility belonging to a non-profit organization.
Mohammed Shamsud Douza, the deputy Bangladesh government official in charge of refugees, said the fire service spent two hours putting out the blaze, but was hampered by the explosion of gas cylinders inside homes.
A fire has swept through the Rohingya refugee camps in southern Bangladesh, destroying homes belonging to thousands of people, according to the United Nations.
The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) said more than 550 shelters – home to at least 3,500 people – were either totally or partially destroyed in the blaze on Thursday, as well as 150 shops and a facility belonging to a non-profit organisation.
Photographs and video provided to Reuters news agency by a Rohingya refugee in Nayapara Camp showed families, including children, sifting through charred corrugated iron sheets to see if they could salvage anything from their smouldering homes.
But little remained of the camp, which had stood for decades, aside from concrete poles and the husks of a few trees.
“E-block is completely burned down,” said the refugee, Mohammed Arakani. “There is nothing left. There was nothing saved. Everything is burned down.”
“Everyone is crying,” he added. “They lost all their belongings. They lost everything … all their goods.”
“Security experts are liaising with the authorities to investigate on the cause of fire,” the agency said, adding that no casualties were reported.
Mohammed Shamsud Douza, the deputy Bangladesh government official in charge of refugees, said the fire service spent two hours putting out the blaze but was hampered by the explosion of gas cylinders inside homes.
He said there had been no decision on whether shelters would be rebuilt or refugees moved elsewhere.
The Bangladesh government has moved several thousand Rohingya to a remote island in recent weeks, despite protests from human rights groups who say some of the relocations were forced, allegations denied by authorities.
More than a million Rohingya live in the mainland camps in southern Bangladesh, the vast majority having fled Myanmar in 2017 in a military-led crackdown the UN said was executed with genocidal intent – charges Myanmar denies.
The cause of the fire is yet to be determined, the official said adding that, authorities concerned are working to this end.
At least 500 makeshift dwellings have been gutted in a fire at the Nayapara Rohingya refugee camp in Teknaf, Cox’s Bazar. However, no casualties were reported in the incident.
The fire broke out at the Nayapara refugee camp in Hnila union of Teknaf upazila in the early hours of Thursday, said Additional Refugee Relief and Repatriation Commissioner Md Shamsud Douza.
Shamsud Douza said a fire broke out in the Nayapara Rohingya refugee camp in Teknaf at 3am on Thursday. Informed, firefighters from Teknaf Fire Service Station responded to the scene.
“After about two hours, the fire brigade was able to bring the fire under control at 5am. Meanwhile, at least 500 Rohingya houses in the camp were completely burnt down.”
Foreign Minister Dr AK Abdul Momen says he is hoping for a fruitful meeting Bangladesh, Myanmar and China will hold a tripartite meeting on Rohingya repatriation in Dhaka on January 19, as Dhaka finds their repatriation to Myanmar as the only solution to the crisis.
“We hope it would be a fruitful meeting,” Foreign Minister Dr AK Abdul Momen told reporters on Wednesday about the tripartite talks.
He said the meeting would be held at secretary level. The last tripartite meeting like this was held on January 20 last year. More than three years ago, Myanmar’s soldiers targeted, killed, and raped Rohingyas, an ethnic minority in Myanmar, and burned their villages, as the United Nations, Refugees International, United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.
The cause of the fire is yet to be determined, the official said adding that, the authorities concerned are working to this end.
“Also, the extent of damage caused by the fire is also being assesed,” said Shamsud Douza.