At least 15 found dead after Bangladesh Rohingya camp blaze

Full Screen
1 / 11

Rohingya refugees cry sitting at the site of Monday's fire at a refugee camp in Balukhali, southern Bangladesh, Tuesday, March 23, 2021. Rescuers recovered more than a dozen charred bodies from a Rohingya refugee camp in southern Bangladesh after a devastating fire that destroyed thousands of shelters, officials said Tuesday. (AP Photo/ Shafiqur Rahman)

COX'S BAZAR – COX'Searchers recovered at least 15 charred bodies after a devastating fire destroyed thousands of shelters at a Rohingya refugee camp in southern Bangladesh, officials said Tuesday.

At least 400 people were still missing and around 560 were injured by the fire, according to Louise Donovan, a spokesperson for the United Nations’ refugee agency. The UNHCR said around 45,000 people were displaced by the fire, which broke out Monday afternoon and burned well into the night.

In the aftermath, refugees picked through the burned debris looking for their belongings. Others wept.

“Yesterday before the fire started, my kids went to study at the Islamic school. I did not see them after they came back. I found two of my older kids but I still can’t find my youngest son,” said Shappuni, a Rohingya refugee who uses only one name.

At least three of the dead were children and the search for victims was still ongoing, said Nizam Uddin Ahmed, the top government official in Ukhiya, a sub-region of the Cox’s Bazar district where the camp is located.

Relief teams on the ground were stunned by the unprecedented level of destruction, said Jan Egeland, secretary general of the Norwegian Refugee Council.

“This tragic event could have been less disastrous had barbed wire fencing not been erected encircling the camps. NRC staff have heard horrific accounts from refugees about their scramble to cut through the wire fences to save their families, escape the fire and reach safety,” Egeland said.

Bangladesh has sheltered more than a million Rohingya Muslims in crowded refugee camps, the vast majority having fled neighboring Myanmar in 2017 amid a major crackdown by that country's military. The U.N. has said the crackdown had a genocidal intent, a charge Myanmar rejects.