Huge fire kills at least 15 in Rohingya refugee camp in Bangladesh

Ramy Inocencio
·1 min read

A massive fire that tore through a sprawling refugee camp in southern Bangladesh — home to an estimated 1 million Rohingya refugees from neighboring Myanmar — has killed at least 15 people and displaced at least 45,000 more.

The United Nations refugee agency said 15 were dead and some 400 others missing amid fears that many victims could still be buried under rubble. About 560 people were injured in the blaze on Monday, UNHCR said.

A girl sifts through the ashes on March 23, 2021, two days after a huge fire swept through a Rohingya refugee camp in southern Bangladesh, destroying thousands of homes and killing at least seven people in the worst blaze to hit the settlement in recent years. / Credit: Yousuf Tushar/LightRocket/Getty
A girl sifts through the ashes on March 23, 2021, two days after a huge fire swept through a Rohingya refugee camp in southern Bangladesh, destroying thousands of homes and killing at least seven people in the worst blaze to hit the settlement in recent years. / Credit: Yousuf Tushar/LightRocket/Getty

The Doctors Without Borders charity told CBS News that many of the missing were believed to be children.

The Rohingyas are a stateless, mostly-Muslim ethnic group that, until 2017, called Myanmar home. Now, on top of religious persecution in that country that has amounted to genocide according to some investigators, there has been this devastating fire in Bangladesh in the shanties that hundreds of thousands now call home.

Plumes of smoke billowed over the sprawling camp, which spans across about 8,000 acres in the Cox's Bazar area of Bangladesh, a sliver of coastal land near the border with Myanmar.

Hundreds of firefighters tried to put out the blaze while aid workers tried to pull people to safety. Some screamed and cried as they searched desperately for lost family members.

Witnesses said that barbed wire encircling the camps trapped some people inside as they tried to get away from the flames.

Rohingya refugees search for their belongings on March 23, 2021, after a fire broke out at  Balukhali Rohingya refugees camp in Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh. / Credit: Yousuf Tushar/LightRocket/Getty
Rohingya refugees search for their belongings on March 23, 2021, after a fire broke out at Balukhali Rohingya refugees camp in Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh. / Credit: Yousuf Tushar/LightRocket/Getty

This was just the latest fire in these camps — at least four have been reported in Cox's Bazar since January alone. Bangladesh has launched a probe into the cause of the latest fire, but officials there say it's too much of a coincidence to have so many fires in such a short time period, suggesting they suspect possible arson.

The previous blazes remain unsolved, too.

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