About 30,000 Rohingya refugees who fled a deadly blaze at camps in Bangladesh returned to their scorched shanties Thursday, seeking to rebuild their makeshift homes as others searched for missing relatives, officials and aid groups said.
The settlements in southeast Bangladesh — home to nearly a million of the Muslim minority from Myanmar, many of whom escaped a military crackdown in 2017 — were hit by a major fire on Monday that left at least 15 people dead and nearly 50,000 homeless.
“We have provided them housing materials such as bamboo, tarpaulins, floor mats, ropes and utensils,” Bangladesh’s refugee commissioner Shah Rezwan Hayat told AFP of the returning Rohingya, who had sought refuge in other camps.
Hayat said government officials and aid workers, including from the United Nations, were helping the refugees remove the destroyed shelters and build temporary ones.
Some Rohingya and their children could be seen scouring the blackened sites for their treasured gold jewellery.
“After the fire my family got scattered. It took hours to know who had gone where,” 42-year-old father-of-eight Nur Syed told AFP at one of the fire-hit camps after a shelter for his family was built.
Tyeba Khatun, a woman in her 60s who lived in a camp with her husband, said they lost all their possessions from Myanmar.
“Aid workers came and built this shelter for us. Otherwise we would still be living under open air,” she told AFP.
Bangladesh authorities have denied UN claims that about 400 refugees were missing.
But an international aid agency official, who asked to remain anonymous, told AFP on Thursday that “at least 20 families came to us with claims that their children or other family members were still unaccounted for”.
“We have already reunited several families with their missing members,” the official added.
Hayat had said Wednesday that preliminary findings suggested the fire originated from a stove in a shelter and then quickly spread due to strong wind and cooking gas cylinders.