Home News ‘We now have nothing’: Refugee camp hearth devastates Rohingya, once more

‘We now have nothing’: Refugee camp hearth devastates Rohingya, once more


Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh – The final time Farida Begum noticed her house was a smouldering spoil was some three and a half years in the past.

On that night time, troopers had arrived within the swampy Maungdaw district of Myanmar’s Rakhine state, killed her husband and torched their home.

Begum, alongside together with her son, managed to flee the Myanmar army’s crackdown in opposition to the Rohingya in late August 2017, which United Nations investigators discovered to have been executed with “genocidal intent”.

For days, the mom and son slogged by way of the monsoon-drenched jungles and paddy fields of western Myanmar, earlier than crossing into neighbouring Bangladesh to take refuge in Cox’s Bazar. Greater than 700,000 different members of the principally Muslim minority did the identical, settling in an space that now hosts the world’s largest refugee camp.

Begum mentioned her life was turned the other way up when the blaze raged throughout the refugee camp [Faisal Mahmud/Al Jazeera]

Begum, now 45, thought the worst was behind her – till this week.

On Monday afternoon, an enormous hearth broke out within the Balukhali refugee camp in Cox’s Bazar, killing no less than 15 folks, wounding lots of and leaving tens of 1000’s of Rohingya homeless, once more.

“I don’t know for a way lengthy God will maintain testing us. I’ve nothing now,” mentioned Begum, whose belongings have been all was ashes when her shelter out of bamboo and tarpaulin was swallowed by the flames.

Worse, her 19-year-old son Shafi Ullah suffered burns on greater than 30 % of his physique and is now preventing for all times in hospital.

“I don’t know whether or not my son will dwell or not,” Begum informed Al Jazeera.

‘We now have to start out over again’

Fuelled by sturdy winds and lots of of cooking fuel cylinders that exploded, the massive blaze unfold quickly throughout the densely populated camp.

It was the most recent tragedy for its Rohingya residents, who’ve been residing in squalid shanties abutting streams of sewage-infested runoff water.

Abdul Jabbar was having a cup of tea at a stall when he instantly noticed thick columns of smoke billowing from the a part of the camp housing his shelter. Inside have been his spouse and two kids.

Jabbar and his household are actually in a short lived shelter [Faisal Mahmud/Al Jazeera]

“It was one of many worst moments of my life,” the 51-year-old informed Al Jazeera. “I fled together with others from the tea store and tried to succeed in a secure place.” Fortunately, Jabbar mentioned, his household escaped unscathed – however the devastation introduced again the trauma of 2017 when the Myanmar military set his home on hearth and killed his elder son.

“We now have misplaced every little thing,” he mentioned. “We don’t also have a glass or plate to have water or meals. We now have to start out over again.”

Jabbar and his household have quickly taken refuge in one of many 800 tents erected to this point by the Bangladesh Pink Crescent Society (BDRCS) with the assistance of the workplace of the Refugee, Aid and Repatriation Commissioner of the Bangladesh authorities.

BDRCS informed Al Jazeera it has additionally been offering dry meals to a complete of 1,500 households, whereas the World Meals Programme mentioned it has been delivering cooked meals to almost 60,000 households straight and not directly affected by the hearth.

Sheila Grudem, WFP’s senior emergency coordinator, mentioned the company’s engineering groups have helped with “cleansing up particles, constructing short-term constructions for assist distribution, and mobilising 1000’s of volunteers to help the efforts”.

On Friday, in a part of camp-9 in Balukhali, some Rohingya males have been attempting to rebuild their ruined homes utilizing tarpaulins and bamboo offered by BDRCS and the Worldwide Group for Migration. The 2 companies say they’ve to this point distributed a complete of twenty-two,000 of those supplies.

Kamal mentioned fires should not sudden given the precarious circumstances refugees dwell in [Faisal Mahmud/Al Jazeera]

For Abul Kalam, such rebuilding is nothing new.

Simply in Could final 12 months, one other hearth in Kutupalong refugee camp destroyed his home together with some 400 others.

A complete of 9 small and large-scale fires have damaged out within the Rohingya refugee camps over the previous 12 months, residents and officers informed Al Jazeera.

Residents mentioned the danger of fireside was excessive within the crowded settlements whose shanties are constructed from extremely flamable supplies. The short-term electrical energy strains crisscrossing the camps and the utilization of LPG cylinders for cooking improve the hazard.

Kalam additionally lambasted the barbed-wire fencing put up across the camp’s major elements. “We’re caged like animals,” mentioned the 34-year-old. “This fence additionally slowed down assist from arriving in time.”

Brad Adams, Asia director of US-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) mentioned refugees have “horrifying accounts of being trapped inside barbed-wire fencing as the hearth swept by way of the camps”.

“Bangladesh authorities are failing of their obligation to guard the lives of refugees by dangerously fencing them inside camps,” Adams mentioned. “The authorities ought to work with humanitarian companies and take away the fences, and respect the refugees’ freedom of motion.”

However Asaduzzaman Khan Kamal, Bangladesh’s house affairs minister who visited the camp on Wednesday, informed reporters the fence didn’t “create any hindrance in opposition to the rescue operation”.

“These fences have been erected to verify the worsening state of affairs of regulation and order within the camps,” he mentioned.

Bangladesh’s Refugee Commissioner Shah Rezwan Hayat additionally defended the barbed wire, saying the fences are solely positioned on the outer perimeter and couldn’t have acted as limitations between blocks of shanties.

“Lots of of rescue staff, firefighters, dozens of automobiles entered the camp inside 20 minutes of fireside,” Hayat informed Al Jazeera. “If the fences acted as a barrier, how might they’ve performed that?”

Authorities have launched an investigation to find out the reason for the hearth, however some store homeowners close to the camp argued that the hearth might need began because of an inside feud between rival Rohingya teams concerned with legal actions.

“They [these gangs] wish to set up dominance within the camp,” Mubinul Haque, who has a grocery retailer close to Balukhali camp, informed Al Jazeera. “Additionally they combat amongst themselves. Many of the Rohingya refugees are petrified of them and don’t wish to discuss them.”

Gazi Salahuddin, inspector of Ukhia police station, mentioned authorities are “not ruling out” any potentialities, whereas Kamal, the minister, hinted {that a} “subversive plan” behind the hearth was not written off.

“We shaped two investigation committees to determine the causes behind the hearth; they’re engaged on it,” he mentioned. “If anybody is discovered concerned, they are going to be delivered to e book.”

Abdul Aziz from Cox’s Bazar contributed to the report