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  • Writer's pictureAhtaram Shin

Fire incidents are a recurring calamity in the Rohingya refugee camp

2024 © Sahat Zia Hero

Word by Ahtaram Shin

Around midday on Friday, a massive blaze burned down about 200 shelters in Camp 13, B3 block, Another 200 shelters were damaged, and 4,000 people were left homeless.

Miamuna Begum, a 65-year-old woman, is among them.

“I was in the shelter with my six young grandchildren. When they heard people screaming, they ran out, and my daughter-in-law went to look for them. Her husband (my son) was not in the shelter at the time”, she recalls.

“I cannot walk alone down from the small pathway from the top of the mountain. As I was sitting in the shelter, a person suddenly came in front of my shelter, took me out, and carried me to another block. We couldn't save anything, and now we don't have any clothes, utensils, or other materials."

Since it was a Friday, people were preparing for Juma prayer when the fire started from a CARITAS NFI office. Due to the hot weather and the lack of nearby fire services, the blaze spread very quickly. A fire victim said, "I had a grocery shop, and I closed it and went home to prepare for Juma prayer. It was burnt down, and I couldn't save anything."

This is the third major fire incident this year, further endangering the lives of Rohingya refugees living in Bangladesh. On Sunday, only two days after the incident, a signal 9 Cyclone Remal hit the Bangladeshi Coast, including in Cox's Bazar, and heavy rain poured down in Ukhiya. These fire victims are sitting under only a tarpaulin, trembling in the cold wind and getting wet.

"I don't know when the NGOs will build new shelters. Currently, we are staying in a neighboring shelter. As it is very small, it is truly difficult for people to share the space, even for a night," Miamuna Begum.

People are always fearful due to the risks of fires, landslides, floods, and shelters being blown away. Camp 13 has many areas where sites and walls could be built. To take fire precautions, there should be community-equipped and trained volunteers from each block of each camp. This way, they can respond effectively to any fire or natural disaster.



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