Monsoon batters Rohingya camps in Bangladesh

Thousands of dwellings have been damaged or destroyed and two refugees killed in Cox's Bazar
Monsoon batters Rohingya camps in Bangladesh

Rohingya refugees at a food distribution point established inside Kutupalong refugee camp in Cox's Bazar of southern Bangladesh amid havoc caused by monsoon storms in 2017. (Photo by Stephan Uttom/ucanews.com)

Strong monsoon winds and heavy rain resulting in landslides have caused extensive damage and killed at least two inhabitants at Rohingya refugee camps in southern Bangladesh.

More than 3,400 houses were destroyed or heavily damaged, said International Organization for Migration (IOM) spokesman George McLeod.

Some 30 camps in the Cox's Bazar region house about one million Rohingya Muslims who fled to Bangladesh from deadly military crackdowns in neighboring Myanmar's Rakhine State.

"We are only halfway into the monsoon season and have helped over 2,000 people in the past 72 hours," McLeod told ucanews.com. "Our teams have been working around the clock."

More than 15,500 people in the camps have been affected by the monsoon storms during the past few days, he added.

The office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said 2,137 refugees were relocated from potentially dangerous dwelling sites within camps during the past week.

Abu Sayed, 42, a Rohingya community leader in Kutupalong camp, the largest of the refugee settlements, said that one of his relatives lost his house and is now living in temporary shelter.

"There is no shortage of food or aid, but we fear there will be more disasters in the coming days," he added.

Aid agencies have been rebuilding damaged dwellings and roads, said Sayed, who heads a seven-member family.

Officials and aid workers said that ongoing efforts to upgrade refugee accommodation, as well as to put an early weather warning system in place, had helped to minimize deaths and injuries.

Abul Kalam, head of the state-run Refugee Relief and Repatriation Commission, said improved construction methods aimed to protect camp residents from torrential rain, landslides and powerful winds.

James Gomes, regional director of Catholic charity Caritas Chittagong that operates in the camps, noted that deforestation is a major concern.

"Hills were leveled and thousands of trees were cut down to make way for refugee shelters, so it's absolutely important to plant as many trees as possible to reduce damage done to the environment," he added.

Flooding and landslides plague low-lying Bangladesh during the monsoon season that generally lasts from June to September.

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