Photo: NRC/Inmanuel Chayan Biswas

Relief operation under way after huge fire in Cox’s Bazar

Published 23. Mar 2021
After fire ravaged large parts of Cox’s Bazar refugee complex, the relief operation has begun. The Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) is present on the ground, providing vital assistance to the thousands of families who are currently homeless and in desperate need.


On 22 March, at approximately 15.20, a massive fire broke out in the world’s largest refugee complex, Cox’s Bazar in Bangladesh. The site is home to over 600,000 people, mostly Rohingya refugees from neighbouring Myanmar.

Thousands left homeless

According to UN figures, as of the morning of Tuesday 23 March, 15 refugees are confirmed to have tragically lost their lives in the fire. More than 560 have been injured and an estimated 400 people are still missing.

The fire affected five camps within the Cox’s Bazar complex, with at least 10,000 shelters estimated to have been destroyed or damaged, according to the UN. Hospitals, health centres, distribution points and other facilities have also been destroyed.

“Our teams on the ground in Cox’s Bazar say the scale and intensity of the fire and its path of destruction is unlike anything they have witnessed before. Tens of thousands of Rohingya refugees have lost their homes and belongings overnight,” says Jan Egeland, Secretary General of NRC.

Families have sought safety in neighbouring camps, where they are reported to be mostly sleeping outside on the ground.

Government response services, including fire services, rescue teams and aid agencies rushed to respond, and the fire was brought under control within four hours. The authorities have not yet confirmed the cause of the blaze, though unverified reports have suggested that it may have started from a gas cylinder explosion.

How NRC is supporting the relief effort

NRC staff and volunteers conducted a rapid assessment of the situation throughout the night of 22 March and the morning of the 23rd.

“The flames destroyed so much, but it could have been a lot worse without the thousands of Rohingya volunteers,” says Jamie Munn, who heads up NRC’s operations in Bangladesh.

Our staff and volunteers are currently supporting the relief effort by:

  • Setting up information stations in affected camp locations
  • Converting NRC learning centres to temporary shelters, equipped with first aid kits, fire extinguishers, mattresses, blankets, hygiene kits, and provisions
  • Distributing food and water
  • Providing psychosocial support to those affected

We need your support. All funds raised will be used to assist those affected, and no amount is too small.