The fire spread rapidly because of gusty winds and was doused around 9:30pm
A massive fire ripped through the Balukhali Rohingya camp in Cox's Bazar’s Ukhiya on Monday.
Flames erupted at camps number eight and nine around 4pm, leaving over 3,000 shanties, various NGO offices and police barracks gutted.
Upon being informed of the incident, at least seven firefighting units rushed to the scene to put out flames that were spreading rapidly due to heavy winds, according to officials.
Several government response services, including rescue teams and aid agencies, joined fire services to evacuate the Rohingyas and take them to nearby camps. Bangladesh Army and hundreds of volunteers from nearby camps also joined the operation.
After trying for more than five hours, firefighters managed to douse the fire at around 9:30pm, Cox’s Bazar Additional Superintendent of Police Md Rafiqul Islam said.
Md Shihab Kaiser, commander of Balukhali 8th APBn, said: “A portion of an APBn barrack was gutted in the fire. Along with Rohingya shanties, schools and NGO offices were also burned to the ground.”
The fire also left Boli Bazar, the biggest local market at the Rohingya camp, in ashes. Abdul Hakim, one of the residents of the camp, said products worth at least Tk50 crore were gutted in the fire.
Some locals reported that their family members had been missing following the fire at the camp.
"The fire started in the afternoon and spread very quickly in the camps," said Rohingya leader Lalu Majhi.
Local residents tried to put out the flames themselves before reporting it to the fire service, he added.
According to sources, a total of seven blocks in Camp nine were completely gutted, while two other blocks were burned partially.
Locals claimed the fire started from a shack inside camp eight.
However, Ukhiya police station Officer in-Charge (OC) Gazi Salauddin said no credible sources had confirmed how the fire started.
He said Rohingyas at the scene are giving different accounts of the fire and blaming each other.
“We will learn about the real reason after investigation,” the police official said.
Shamsud Douza, additional commissioner for Relief and Refugee Repatriation, said: "I have received news of the fire at the camp. We are not sure how much damage was caused by the fire."
International Organization for Migration (IOM) Director General Antonio Vitorino expressed concern about the fire.
I am deeply concerned by the impact of a terrible fire today in Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh.— António Vitorino (@IOMchief) March 22, 2021
Tens of thousands of Rohingya refugees are affected.
IOM teams and partners are working together to respond to the crisis and ensure the safety and well-being of all.
He said in a tweet: “I am deeply concerned by the impact of a terrible fire today in Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh. Tens of thousands of Rohingya refugees are affected. IOM teams and partners are working together to respond to the crisis and ensure the safety and well-being of all.”
A massive fire broke out earlier this afternoon in several #Rohingya refugee camps in the Kutupalong-Balukhali area. Government response services, including fire services, rescue teams and aid agencies currently responding. Visible extensive damage. pic.twitter.com/JIxGst9WSF— IOM Asia-Pacific (@IOMAsiaPacific) March 22, 2021
Earlier in January, at least 500 makeshift dwellings were gutted in a fire at the Nayapara Rohingya refugee camp in Teknaf, Cox's Bazar.