By Mohammed Rafique, The Rohingya Post
“This calamity brings all of us into a sleepless night haunted by the thoughts of our loved ones lost in the fire in a matter of hours after we’ve saved them from the mass-killing fields of Burma (Myanmar). It broke our already-broken hearts.”
On Monday, a massive blaze broke out in the cramped Balukhali Refugee Camp located in coastal Cox’s Bazar region of Bangladesh.
The fire started from one of the shanty refugee homes in Camp 8W at around 3:00 PM local time, spreading to the adjacent camps 8D and 9.
It is estimated that at least 4,500 Rohingya family homes were destroyed. It has also forced over 20,000 to flee their homes.
The spread of the blaze was aided by the crowded and squalid conditions of the camps, the explosion of gas cylinders used for cooking, and narrow and difficult roads for firefighters to access.
‘The Biggest Ever Fire’ that destroys all
— The Rohingya Post (@TheRohingyaPost) March 22, 2021
“It is the biggest ever fire that I have witnessed in my entire life as a refugee,” an elderly refugee man said to The Rohingya Post.
“The fire came as a double disaster having fled the genocide in our country of birth in Arakan, (Myanmar). This has now destroyed all that we had,” he continued.
The blaze has reportedly continued to billow until midnight despite Bangladesh firefighters, refugees and volunteers joined together to stop it.
Deadly Blaze Sweeps across the traumatised community
According to witnesses and reports from the ground, at least ten bodies including three women and two children were found.
The exact number of casualties is expected to rise exponentially. Many Rohingya refugees said the steel barbed wire erected between the camps have prevented children and vulnerable refugees from escaping into safety.
A number of Rohingya refugees are reported to have injured in the fire and the subsequent explosion of gas cylinders.
There are also reports of hundreds of missing children, women and elderly person as the deadly blaze terrorised and swept across the traumatised community.
A woman told The Rohingya Post that her eight-year-old daughter was missing. Like many Rohingya families, she pleads to find their missing loved ones and reunite them.
Hospital, Clinics, Shops, Schools and Places of Worships all destroyed
A 50-bed hospital built by Turkey’s Disaster and Emergency Management Authority (AFAD) was razed down in the blaze.
There are also reports of clinics, hundreds of shops, schools and mosques which were destroyed by the fire.
The destruction of medical facilities immensely affects the Rohingya community amid the massive disaster, according to Rohingya refugees.
Local and international NGOs, volunteers and Bangladesh governmental organisations are currently providing supports to the displaced and traumatised Rohingya refugees.
“It is essential that the international community stands again and support the Rohingya in this difficult time. The fire is massive. So does the destruction,” said a Bangladeshi volunteer who withheld her name.
Some people in local Bangladesh media are reportedly spreading misinformation on the origin of the fire. They accused Rohingya refugees of setting their homes on fire by themselves in order to receive more donation and aid while others shared fake photos of arrested Rohingya refugees.
The misinformation is rejected by APBN Police Intelligence Officer Emaul Haque (PPM) who said that there was no such incident in the camp.
There were two massive blazes in refugee camps in January which destroyed hundreds of homes and left thousands homeless.
‘A sleepless night’
“This calamity brings all of us into a sleepless night haunted by the thoughts of our loved ones lost in the fire in a matter of hours after we’ve saved them from the mass-killing fields of Burma (Myanmar). It broke our already-broken hearts,” said a Rohingya refugee from Balukhali Refugee Camp.