Photo: Helal Agrajattra/NRC

Devastating fire in Cox’s Bazar

Published 23. Mar 2021
Statement from Jan Egeland, Secretary General of the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC), on the devastating fire in Cox’s Bazar refugee camps.

A massive fire broke out at approximately 15:20 yesterday (22 March) in Rohingya refugee camps in Cox’s Bazar. Fire services are reporting that the barbed wire fencing, erected by the Government of Bangladesh, seriously restricted the ability of refugees to escape the fire, and delayed fire rescue and response operations. Heavy fire fighting machinery could not access one devastated area, known as Camp 9, because the fencing and cement pillars erected cut off access from the main road network.

Reacting to the fire in Cox’s Bazar refugee camps, Jan Egeland, Secretary General of the Norwegian Refugee Council, said:

“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. This tragic event could have been less disastrous had barbed wire fencing not been erected encircling the camps.

NRC staff have heard horrific accounts from refugees about their scramble to cut through the wire fences to save their families, escape the fire and reach safety. We call on the Government of Bangladesh to review their decision to fence in these camps, halt all fence construction going forward, and find a safer, more humane alternative.”

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