© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Consequences of a fire at the Rohingya Balukhali refugee camp in Cox’s Bazar
By Ruma Paul
COX’S BAZAR, Bangladesh (Reuters) – Aid workers on Wednesday sought to reunite dispersed Rohingya Muslim families as a massive fire swept through the world’s largest refugee settlement in Bangladesh, forcing about 45,000 people have to leave their bamboo and plastic homes.
The fire tore through a cramped camp in Cox’s Bazar district, southeastern Bangladesh on Monday, killing 15 people and missing hundreds, the United Nations said. Bangladesh says at least 11 people were killed.
“Most people move to other camps to stay with friends or relatives,” said Snigdha Chakraborty, country manager of the Catholic Relief Services aid group.
“We have to make sure that any children separated from their families during an evacuation are reunited promptly.”
She did not provide any estimates of how many children were left alone.
The UN refugee agency, UNHCR, also said children were looking for their parents, in another injury to families fleeing their homes in western Myanmar as the military there launched an operation. attack against Islamic insurgents in 2017.
“This is a very difficult situation and our hearts for the thousands of refugees have yet to come across another disaster,” UNHCR official Ita Schuette said in a video posted on Twitter from Cox’s Bazar.
About 1 million Rohingya refugees live in camps in Cox’s Bazar with little hope of returning to their homes in Myanmar, mostly Buddhists, where most have been denied naturalization and face persecution. .
Some witnesses said the barbed wire fence set up around the camp left many people trapped in the fire.
International humanitarian agencies have called for the wire to be removed but Bangladesh’s deputy government official in charge of refugees, Mohammad Shamsud Douza, said the fences were not a big deal.
“It spread so quickly that some people who couldn’t get out died immediately,” he said. “It was not the barbed wire that stopped them from escaping.”
Citing camp overload, Bangladesh tried to move 100,000 Rohingya to a remote island in the Bay of Bengal.
Relief groups say the sunken Bhasan Char island, which is prone to flooding, only appeared about 20 years ago, is in danger of being flooded by storms and should not take refuge there.
Despite that, and the reluctance of many Rohingya to move, Bangladesh has moved more than 13,000 refugees to the island since December.
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