Efforts began on Wednesday to reunite Rohingya Muslim families separated by a huge blaze that reduced the world’s largest refugee camp to ashes in Cox’s Bazar district in southeast Bangladesh.
The fire in the camp, comprising on bamboo and plastic homes and housing 45,000 people, erupted on Monday and killed 15 people with hundreds missing, said the United Nations officials.
However, Bangladesh authorities put the toll at 11.
“Most people scattered to other camps to stay with friends or relatives,” said Snigdha Chakraborty, country manager for the Catholic Relief Services aid group.
She said that her group and other aid agency workers were trying to reunite children who were separated from their families during the evacuation.
She, however, could not provide any estimate of how many children had been left on their own.
The UN refugee agency, UNHCR, called it another trauma for the children and families who fled from Myanmar when the military launched an offensive against Muslim minority in 2017.
“This is a very difficult situation and our heart goes out to the thousands of refugees who have yet met another disaster,” UNHCR official Ita Schuette said in a video message posted on Twitter.
Some one million Rohingya refugees live in camps in Cox’s Bazar with little hope of returning to their homes in Buddhist-majority Myanmar, where most have been refused citizenship and face persecution.
Some witnesses said that barbed wire fencing put up around the camp had trapped many people during the fire.
But the Bangladesh government official in charge of the refugees, Mohammad Shamsud Douza, said the fencing was not a major issue. “It spread so quickly that some people who could not come out instantly died,” he said.
“It was not the barbed wire fencing that prevented them from escaping,” he added.
Bangladesh has been trying to move 100,000 Rohingya to a remote Bay of Bengal island, but the aid groups ask the government not to do so as it is a low-lying and flood-prone island.
The government did not pay attention to their plea and has moved 13,000 Rohingya to the island since December.
Bhasan Char island had emerged from the sea about 20 years ago and overwhelmed by storms.