A large fire spread rapidly through a refugee camp in Bangladesh on Sunday, destroying over 1,200 shelters. To escape the growing blaze, the refugees were forced to cut through fencing designed to keep them in the camp.
More than 5,000 people were left homeless by the fire, which swept quickly through the temporary shelters that the refugees live in.
Over a million Rohingya people have been forced out of Myanmar by violence in recent years. Many escaped into Bangladesh, but Bangladesh’s government doesn’t want the Rohingya to settle there permanently.
Since 2017, the refugees have been crowded into camps with poor conditions. One camp, in an area called Cox’s Bazar, is the world’s largest refugee camp. It now holds nearly a million people in tents and rough shelters.
Sunday’s fire broke out in a part of Cox’s Bazar called Camp 16. The shelters are simple – made of bamboo and cloth or plastic. Because these materials burn easily and the shelters are packed tightly together, fire is a constant danger. “There was no way we could put out the fire,” Mohammad Yasin told the news group Agence France-Presse. “There was no water. My home is burned.”
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It’s still not clear what started the fire, which was finally put out by emergency workers. This was already the second fire at the camp in the first few days of 2022. Last March, another, larger fire tore through the camp, leaving 45,000 people homeless and killing 15.
Groups working to support the refugees have encouraged Bangladesh’s government to remove the fencing surrounding the camps. They say it increases the danger caused by fires by making it difficult to escape.
It is now winter, and the fire has made life even harder for people who have already lost everything. The United Nations and groups which support the refugees are working to help the people affected by the fire.
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