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Fire risks at Rohingya camps: Special firefighter units formed

  • Published at 07:36 pm January 31st, 2018
Fire risks at Rohingya camps: Special firefighter units formed
The Rohingya camps in Ukhiya and Teknaf upazilas of Cox's Bazar are at high risk of catching fire. After a recent fire in the Ghumdhum transit Rohingya camp took the lives of four people, the Rohingya population has been living in constant fear of fires breaking out. The authorities have deployed special firefighting units keeping the risk in mind. Other initiatives have also been undertaken by the administration to keep the Rohingyas safe. The makeshift camps on the hills of Ukhiya and Teknaf have been built with bamboo and tarpaulin. The Rohingyas cook inside these makeshift shanties and tents, making them prone to catching fire during the dry winter season. Besides, the use of gas cylinders provided by different NGOs also increase the chances of a devastating blaze. In the span of  two months, there have been more than 20 incidents of fire inside the Ukhiya and Teknaf camps. Recently on January 12, a woman and a child alongside 4 others were killed in a fire that started from a tent in the transit camp in Ghumdhum. Another person was severely injured in the same fire incident. A Rohingya, Lalu Majhi, in Balukhali camp said: “The densely populated Rohingya camps make them very vulnerable to fire. If one tent catches fire, no one will be able to escape before the fire spreads over the whole camp. That is why we are living in constant fear.” Habibullah, a veteran Rohingya living in Kutupalong camp in Ukhiya said, “We are very scared. There have been numerous incidents of fire since the beginning of winter. Every day, one or the other tent catches fire. Most of the times, the fire starts from the places where the people cook.” According to another camp resident Marjia Begum, the fires are hard to extinguish because of the scarcity of water in the hilly areas. Farid Ahmed, the in-Charge of the Rohingya firefighting unit of Ukhiya fire service said, “The Rohingya tents are made of bamboo and tarpaulin. The Rohingyas cook inside these tents, making them extremely fire risky. Besides, the poor road communication and the lack of enough water sources make it very difficult to douse any blaze.” He added that in collaboration with the International Organization for Migration, several reservoirs are being set up around the camp. The camp has been divided into 8 zones, each of which will hold a 10,000 litre water reservoir to fight any fire. Ukhiya fire service station officer Zahirul Islam said, “Most Rohingyas are not aware of how to extinguish a fire in case of such an incident. We are campaigning in the bazars, hospitals, mosques and schools to create awareness among the Rohingyas. We are advising them to cook outside their tents and also to be careful with cigarette stubs.” Upazila Nirbahi Officer (UNO) of Ukhiya Md Nikaruzzaman Chowdhury said: “The displaced Rohingyas are living in Kutupalong and Balukhali camps built on 3,000 acres of land inside Ukhiya.” “These camps have been divided into 20 blocks,” he continued. “Every block has its own camp in-Charge. We have kept the fire risk of the Rohingya camps in mind, especially during winter. We have taken several steps to fight it, including making a firefighting squad with 200 Rohingyas who have been trained by an NGO. We are also planning to supply various equipments.” About 629,000 Rohingya had entered Bangladesh after fleeing the violence inflicted upon them by the Myanmar forces since August 25, 2017. The refugees are currently residing in the 12 camps in Ukhiya and Teknaf inside Cox's Bazar. Before that, 87,000 Rohingyas took refuge in these two upazilas after October 9, 2016. Apart from the influx, an estimated 500,000 of the ethnic minority group have been living in the two upazilas for years now. In total, 1,200,000 Rohingyas are now living in Cox's Bazar. Based on the latest reports, a total of 1,052,843 Rohingyas from 6 of the 12 temporary refugee camps have been registered using the Biometric system by the Bangladesh passport office.
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