(Al Jazeera Media Network) A massive fire raced through a crammed refugee camp for Rohingya people in southern Bangladesh, leaving thousands homeless, a fire official and the United Nations said.
At least 2,000 huts were damaged or burned by the fire that broke out on Sunday, officials from the Balukhali fire department told Al Jazeera.
The blaze hit Camp 11 in Cox’s Bazar, a border district where more than one million Rohingya refugees live, with most having fled a military-led crackdown in Myanmar in 2017.
Reporting from Dhaka, Al Jazeera’s Tanvir Chowdhury said Balukhali camp is one of the 32 camps in Cox’s Bazar.
“Each hut has four to five people living together as a family, and at least half of the population is women and children,” Chowdhury said, adding that fire and rescue officials have not reported any casualties so far.
The UN refugee agency’s Regina De La Portilla told Al Jazeera that most shelters in the camp are made with bamboo and tarpaulin.
“The materials we use in the camps are all temporary that can catch fire, and it spreads quickly due to the congested nature of the camps,” she said.
Portilla said a third of the camp’s population had lost their homes and belongings in the fire and that the UN was providing mental healthcare services.
“We have deployed 90 community health workers (also refugees), who have been trained to provide first aid and psychological support,” she said.
Conditions in Myanmar have worsened since a military takeover in 2021, and attempts to send back refugees have failed.
Last year, the United States said the oppression of the Rohingya in Myanmar amounts to genocide after U.S. authorities confirmed accounts of mass atrocities against civilians by the military in a systematic campaign against the ethnic minority.
The mostly Muslim Rohingya face widespread discrimination in Buddhist-majority Myanmar, where most are denied citizenship and many other rights.