The fire that swept through the Rohingya refugee camp in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh on Monday killed at least 15 people, left at least 400 missing and destroyed thousands of shelter homes, U.N. refugee agency said on Tuesday.
“It is massive, it is devastating,” said UNHCR’s Johannes Van der Klaauw, who joined a Geneva briefing virtually from Dhaka, Bangladesh.
“We still have 400 people unaccounted for, maybe somewhere in the rubble.”
He said the UNHCR had reports of more than 550 people injured and about 45,000 displaced.
Bangladeshi officials are investigating the cause of the blaze even as emergency and aid workers and families sift through the debris looking for further victims.
Some witnesses said that barbed wire fencing around the camp trapped many people, hurting some and leading international humanitarian agencies to call for its removal.
The fire ripped through the Balukhali camp near the southeastern town of Cox’s Bazar late on Monday, burning through thousands of shanties as people scrambled to save their meagre possessions.
Some 40,000 huts in the camp were burned down, said Mohammad Mohsin, secretary of the Ministry of Disaster Management and Relief, after visiting the camp.
Two major hospitals of the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and Turkish government were also destroyed, he told reporters in Cox’s Bazar.
“A seven-member committee has been formed to investigate the matter,” he said.
Sanjeev Kafley, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies’s delegation head in Bangladesh, said more than 17,000 shelters had been destroyed and tens of thousands of people displaced.
More than a thousand Red Cross staff and volunteers worked with fire services to extinguish the blaze, spread over four sections of the camp containing roughly 124,000 people, he said. That represents around one-tenth of an estimated 1 million Rohingya refugees in the area, Kafley said.