Fire engulfs Rohingya refugee camp, killing 5 and causing more than 50,000 people to flee

A fire broke out in a Rohingya refugee camp on March 22, 2021, forcing some 50,000 people to flee. (Video screenshot)

A fire broke out in a Rohingya-inhabited refugee camp in southeast Bangladesh on March 22, engulfing the humble premises with fierce flames, killing at least five people and forcing 50,000 to flee. This is the third fire in the camp in four days.

The fire lasted for more than 10 hours, and videos on social media sites showed thick black smoke rising from the camp as hundreds of firefighters and aid workers put out the fire and rescued the refugees. The fire was extinguished around midnight.

Bangladeshi officials said the fire appeared to be coming from one of the 34 camps and then spread to three other camps, with refugees rushing to pack up their belongings and flee. Five people are known to have died, including three children and two women.

Police officer Gazi Salahuddin said the fire was originally limited to a small area, but later grew larger because of an exploding gas bottle used for cooking.

Cox’s Bazar officer Rashid (Mamunur Rashid) told AFP, “We put out one fire and it spread to other places.”

Onlookers gather at a Rohingya refugee camp where a fire forced some 50,000 people to flee on March 23, 2021.

People clear debris in a Rohingya refugee camp where a fire forced some 50,000 people to flee, March 23, 2021.

A Rohingya man who helped put out the fire told AFP that it burned for more than 10 hours and was the worst fire he had seen since 2017.

Sikder, a fire department official, said it was the third fire in the refugee camp in four days. Two other fires in the camp on the 19th destroyed many of the premises, officials said.

Rohingya Muslims fled Myanmar to arrive in Bangladesh, many following a 2017 Myanmar military crackdown on their homeland, and nearly 1 million of them now live in the overcrowded and filthy 8,000-acre refugee camp in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh.