Fire at Rohingya camp in Bangladesh leaves thousands homeless

About 1,200 houses were burnt in the blaze, police say

Onlookers gather as smoke and flames can be seen on a hillside after a fire broke out in a Rohingya refugee camp in Cox's Bazar on January 9, 2022. AFP
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A fire has swept through parts of a Rohingya refugee camp in Bangladesh, leaving thousands homeless, police said on Sunday.

About 850,000 Rohingyas live in a network of camps in Bangladesh's border district of Cox's Bazar, many of them after escaping a 2017 military crackdown in Myanmar that UN investigators concluded was executed with "genocidal intent".

"About 1,200 houses were burnt in the fire," said Kamran Hossain, a spokesman for the Armed Police Battalion, which heads security in the camp.

The fire started at Camp 16 and raced through shelters made of bamboo and tarpaulin, leaving more than 5,000 people homeless, he said.

"The fire started at 4.40pm and was brought under control at around 6.30pm," he said.

Abdur Rashid, 22, said the fire was so big that he ran for safety as his house and furniture were engulfed by the blaze.

"Everything in my house was burnt. My baby and wife were out. There were a lot of things in the house," he said.

Rohingya refugees gather near their burnt shelters after a massive fire broke out at the Balukhali Rohingya refugee camp in Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh. Reuters

'I lost my dream'

"I saved 30,000 taka [$350 dollars] from working as a day labourer. The money was burnt in the fire.

"I am now under open sky. I lost my dream."

In March last year, 15 people died and about 50,000 were left homeless in Bangladesh after a huge fire destroyed Rohingya homes in the world's biggest refugee settlement.

Mohammad Yasin, 29, bemoaned the lack of fire safety equipment in the camps.

"Fires occur here frequently. There was no way we could put out the fire. There was no water. My home is burnt. Many documents, which I brought from Myanmar, are also burnt. And it is cold here," he said.

Bangladesh has been praised for taking in refugees who poured across the border from Myanmar, but has had little success finding them permanent homes.

Updated: January 10, 2022, 6:19 AM