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Fire tears through Rohingya refugee camp in Bangladesh, leaves thousands homeless

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Fire breaks out at the Balukhali rohingya refugee camp in Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh, on January 9, 2022. (Photo by Reuters)

Thousands of people have been left homeless after a fire swept through a sprawling Rohingya refugee camp in southeastern Bangladesh. 

Police said on Sunday that the blaze started in Camp 16 and raced through shelters made of bamboo and tarpaulin in in Bangladesh's border district of Cox's Bazar. 

Kamran Hossain, a spokesman for the Armed Police Battalion, which heads security in the camp said that the fire started at Camp 16 and raced through shelters made of bamboo and tarpaulin.

"The fire started at 4:40 pm (1040 GMT) and was brought under control at around 6:30 pm," he said

The official further said that the blaze left more than 5,000 people homeless in the settlement, where more than a million persecuted Rohingya refugees live. 

"About 1,200 houses were burnt in the fire."

Mohammed Shamsud Douza, a Bangladesh government official in charge of refugees, said emergency workers had brought the fire under control.

Abdur Rashid, 22, said 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.

"I saved 30,000 taka (350 dollars) from working as a day laborer. The money was burnt in the fire. "I am now under open sky. I lost my dream."

Abu Taher, another Rohingya refugee, said, "Everything is gone. Many are without homes."

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

"Fire occurs 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.

Another blaze tore through a COVID-19 treatment centre for refugees in another refugee camp in the district last Sunday.

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.

Nearly 900,000 Rohingya refugees remain stuck in squalid and overcrowded refugee camps in Bangladesh. Members of the Muslim minority were forced to flee their homes in 2017.

Thousands of Rohingya Muslims were killed, raped, tortured, or arrested by the junta forces, according to the UN, which has described the community in Rakhine as the most persecuted minority in the world. Myanmar does not recognize the Rohingya as citizens, saying they are nationals of Bangladesh, which in turn, says they are natives of Myanmar.

The Rohingya frequently escape the Apartheid-like conditions in the state of Rakhine, where their movements and access to services are severely curtailed. 

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