Devastating Rohingya camp fire destroys thousands of houses
A massive fire which broke out at Balukhali camp in Ukhia, Cox’s Bazar, on Monday has destroyed thousands of houses, according to officials and witnesses.
After trying for more than seven hours, several units of the fire service and Bangladesh Army brought the fire under control around 10.00pm.
The fire was started at around 4.00pm. Initially it was known that the fire started from Rohingya Camp No. 8 and then one by one in engulfed eight Rohingya camps.
“The fire burned about 9,569 Rohingya homes. In addition, about 300 houses of the locals have been burnt down, said Gafur Uddin Chowdhury, chairman of Ukhia’s Palangkhali Union Parishad.
Video and photographs showed a blaze ripping through the the camp .and black smoke billowed over burning shanties and tents as people scrambled to recover their possessions. Rohingya refugees in the camps said many homes were burned down and several people had died, but neither the authorities nor the UNHCR could confirm the number of deaths.
Meanwhile, Mohammad Tanzeem, camp in-charge of Balukhali Camp 8-E, said, “The fire was spreading rapidly in different blocks due to high wind speed in the camp. The fire was brought under control with the efforts of Rohingyas and locals, including members of the fire service and law enforcement personnel.”
Ukhia Fire Service team leader Imdadul Haque said four units worked for several hours to bring the fire under control.
“Although it was possible to bring the fire under control at around 10.45 pm, it was seen that the fire was burning in isolated places. The onset of the fire is thought to be from a gas cylinder,” he added.
Ukhia Upazila Nirbahi Officer Nizam Uddin Ahmed said the affected Rohingyas are being shifted to various camps.
“We are giving them dry food. Cooked food will be arranged from them tomorrow morning.”
Various local and foreign NGO offices and police barracks were burnt down in the fire.
Meanwhile, thousands of people who lost their shelters in the long six-hour fire took shelter on the Cox’s Bazar-Teknaf highway. The homeless people have lost all the belongings of their camp huts.
Rohingya woman Laila Begum, 45, said, “The horrors of today’s fire remind us again of Myanmar.”
Abbas Uddin, who fled his home after the fire, said, “In the midst of healing the wounds of Myanmar, the horrific fire incident in Bangladesh is causing extreme panic.”