The blaze at the Balukhali Rohingya refugee camp in Cox's Bazar has left thousands homeless. (Photo: Caritas Bangladesh)
Charity organizations including Church groups are rushing aid to the victims of a massive fire that ripped through the overcrowded Balukhali refugee camp in Cox’s Bazar, in southeast Bangladesh, killing up to 15 people and leaving about 400 missing some 27,000 homeless.The blaze on March 22 engulfed Balukhali camp destroying more than 6,000 makeshift homes, refugee officials and development workers said. Authorities fear the death toll may rise as the search for the missing people continues."We are assessing the needs of refugees to deliver aid to them quickly," said Immanuel Chayan Biswas, head of operations of the Caritas Rohingya project in Cox’s Bazar. The Caritas Rohingya project, which aims to assist the ethnic Muslim refugees from Myanmar, is a unit of Caritas Bangladesh, the social service arm of the Church in Bangladesh. “There are only ashes and some pillars where the fire broke out, some animals and birds were also found dead. As far as we know at least seven people have died and there are some people in the hospital with serious injuries,” Biswas told UCA News on March 23.“We mainly deal with non-food items and shelters. But, we are also ready to provide food assistance according to the demand. They need food and shelter right now. Caritas has opened all the centers they have in the Rohingya camp, so that people can sleep at night,” he added.About 50,000 refugees were reportedly forced to flee their makeshift homes to escape the fire as thick columns of smoke blanketed the area in what was the worst fire tragedy to hit the refugee camps to date.
Another fire in the Nayapara refugee camp in January left 500 shanties gutted and 3,500 homeless, but no deaths.
The blaze in the Balukhali camp started at around 4:00 p.m. local time in one of its locales and quickly spread to three more. It took hundreds of firefighters more than eight hours to bring it under control.“About 2,000 shanties were fully burned and more than 6,000 were damaged. Two hospitals run by NGOs have also been totally destroyed. We are providing food assistance to the victims,” Mohammad