For Mohammad Ahsan, scenes from Monday’s fire in the Rohingya refugee camp in southern Bangladesh, was a close call with doomsday.
At least 15 people perished in the massive blaze, while more than 550 were injured in the world’s largest refugee camp, according to UN Refugee Agency officials.
The crowded camp currently houses 1.2 million Rohingya, most of whom have fled a crackdown by the Myanmar military in 2017.
“Fire gutted the tents, they fell like dominos. Panic-stricken people were rushing around,” Ahsan, a resident of the camp, told Anadolu Agency.
“For me, it was like doomsday,” he added.
The fire was extinguished after nine hours by rescue workers, said Mohammad Abdullah, an official of the district’s fire department.
“Among the fatalities, three are men, two women and two children,” he added.
According to initial reports, a gas cylinder explosion caused the fire which burnt to ashes 10,000 makeshift tents.
“Many of the victims took shelter in nearby camps, most of them passed the night on the streets or in nearby open places,” Mayyu Khan, a Rohingya youth leader told Anadolu Agency.
The country’s refugee relief authority has chosen to stay mum about the casualties so far.
“We are investigating the incident and will set new tents for the persecuted people with the help of aid agencies,” Mohammad Shamsud Douza, additional commissioner of the Refugee Relief and Repatriation Commission, told Anadolu Agency.
Turkish field hospital gutted
The fire gutted a Turkish field hospital in the camp.
“The tents and medical equipment of the Turkish field hospital in Camp 9 has unfortunately been completely destroyed,” Mustafa Osman Turan, the Turkish envoy in Dhaka told Anadolu Agency.
Turan confirmed that every day 1,000 patients were provided medical services by this hospital. “Of the beneficiaries, 70% were Rohingya and 30% were members of the host community.”
To date, the hospital has served a total of 512,101 patients, according to hospital records.
The fire incident comes at a time when there is growing frustration among Rohingya refugees over the Bangladesh government’s attempt to relocate them on a remote island in the Bay of Bengal.
Amid opposition by UN agencies, the government has relocated 14,000 people to the Bhasan Char island, which is prone to natural disasters.
In the first phase, the government wants to relocate 100,000 refugees on the island.