Fifteen people have died, while 400 are missing after a Rohingya refugee camp in Bangladesh caught fire, the United Nations said Tuesday.
“What we have seen in this fire is something we have never seen before in these camps. It is massive. It is devastating,” Johannes van der Klaauw, the UN Refugee Agency´s representative in Bangladesh, told reporters in Geneva via video-link from Dhaka.
The cause of the fire is still unknown.
It broke out Monday at the world´s biggest refugee camp, where nearly one million people from the persecuted Rohingya Muslim minority are sheltering, having fled a brutal military-led offensive in neighbouring Myanmar.
“We have so far confirmed 15 people dead, 560 injured, 400 are still missing and at least 10,000 shelters have been destroyed. That means at least 45,000 people are being displaced and for whom we now seek provisional shelter,” Van der Klaauw said.
The UN´s International Organization for Migration said it has pledged $1 million to relief efforts but a further $20 million would be required to react to the most urgent needs.
IOM spokeswoman Angela Wells said the fire had caused “catastrophic damage”, and the health clinic run by the IOM, the camp´s largest, was completely destroyed.
“The fire has since subsided, but not before consuming essential facilities in the camps, shelters and the personal belongings of tens of thousands of refugees. The cause of the fire is still unknown as are the exact number of casualties,” she said.
Wells said the first responders were Rohingya volunteers who helped people to safety, supporting the fire response efforts and helping the relief efforts.
IOM teams worked through the night to help those who fled the scene.
“Today, families have begun to return to their plots of land,” Wells told reporters.
“IOM is distributing emergency assistance to all those affected. This assistance includes shelter kits that will allow people to begin to rebuild their homes, as well as emergency items such as blankets, solar lights, mosquito nets, and jerry cans.
“With the start of the monsoon looming, rebuilding is critical. IOM will continue to help people reconstruct durable shelters, emergency latrines and the vital health facility.”