Fire destroys homes, displaces thousands in UN Rohingya refugee camp in Bangladesh (VIDEOS)

A devastating blaze swept through a decades-old UN Rohingya refugee camp in Bangladesh in the early hours of Thursday, destroying more than 550 homes and displacing about 3,500 people, UN aid workers said.

The fire struck a UN camp in southern Bangladesh, with footage circulating on social media of the flames raging and completely burning down a whole segment of the site.

Firefighters’ efforts to extinguish the flames were reportedly impeded by exploding gas cylinders within people’s homes, and they spent hours tackling the blaze. While managing to prevent the flames from spreading further out from the camp, they could not save shelters or belongings. 

Hours after the fire was put out, residents of the camp were seen searching through the ash-strewn ruins in an attempt to rescue any possessions that might have survived.

“Everyone is crying,” one refugee at the camp, Mohammed Arakani, told Reuters in the wake of the blaze. “They lost all their belongings. They lost everything, completely burned down, they lost all their goods.”

The UNHCR said it would provide support to those affected, including clothing, food, and medical care, as well as working with authorities to investigate the cause of the fire.

Following the fire, Save the Children’s country director in Bangladesh, Onno van Manen, labelled it “another devastating blow for the Rohingya people who have endured unspeakable hardship for years.”

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Around a million Rohingya people are based in camps on the mainland in southern Bangladesh, with thousands having been moved to remote islands in recent weeks, against the wishes of human rights groups. The majority of residents in the camps fled Myanmar after the country launched a crackdown against them, which the UN has labelled “genocide.”

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