At least 15 people have been killed in a massive fire that ripped through a Rohingya refugee camp in Bangladesh, while 400 remain missing, the United Nations refugee agency said.
“It is massive, it is devastating,” said the UNHCR’s Johannes van der Klaauw, who joined a Geneva briefing virtually from Dhaka on Tuesday.
“We still have 400 people unaccounted for, maybe somewhere in the rubble,” he said, adding that the UNHCR has reports of 560 people injured and 45,000 people displaced.
Bangladeshi officials said they are investigating the cause of the massive fire as officials sifted through the debris looking for more victims.
The fire ripped through the Balukhali camp near the southeastern town of Cox’s Bazar late on Monday, burning through thousands of huts as people scrambled to save their meagre possessions.
Mohammad Yasin, a Rohingya helping fight the fire, told AFP news agency the blaze raged for more than 10 hours and was the worst he had seen.
“People ran for their lives as it spread fast. Many were injured and I saw at least four bodies,” said Aminul Haq, a refugee.
A volunteer for Save the Children, Tayeba Begum, said: “Children were running, crying for their families.”
“The cause of the fire is still unknown,” Zakir Hossain Khan, a senior police official, told Reuters news agency by telephone from the camps. “Authorities are investigating to determine the cause of the fire.”
Sanjeev Kafley, head of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies delegation in Bangladesh, said more than 17,000 shelters had been destroyed in the blaze, and tens of thousands of people had been displaced.
The fire spread over four sections of the camp housing roughly 124,000 people, about one-tenth of the more than one million Rohingya refugees in the area, he added.