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Bangladesh: Cox’s Bazar Camp Settlement Fire - Emergency Plan of Action (EPoA) DREF Operation n°: MDRBD026

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Situation Report
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A. Situation analysis

Description of the disaster

On 22 March 2021, a massive fire swept through the camp settlement in Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh, destroying shelters and facilities and endangering lives across four camps. So far, 11 casualties have been reported, and 55,000 people have been displaced. According to data shared by the camp authority, a total of 563 people from the affected camps have been injured and 339 are missing. It is understood that there are approximately 10,000 damaged shelters. Further reference information regarding this event can be found in Situation Report #2 and Situation Report #3 of this document, in addition to the ISCG press release.

The fire originated from block D in Camp 8W at about 3.00pm local time on 22 March 2021. The frequent wind flow made the fire spread quickly to other camps comprising camps 8E, 9, and 10, completely razing a huge amount of infrastructure – these included shelters, mosques, community centres, learning centres, service centres, shops, LPG (liquefied petroleum gas) storage sheds and Camp-in-Charge (CiC) offices. The fire was put out in three camps (8E, 8W and 9) around 9.45 PM the same day (22 March 2021), and at 1:00 am on 23 March in Camp 10, by the Fire Service and Civil Defence (FSCD) teams with support from the Cyclone Preparedness Programme (CPP) volunteers and BDRCS staff (Population Movement Operation (PMO) and Myanmar Refugee Relief Operation). Due to the threat of the fast-moving fire, families living in seven adjacent camps were also evacuated to safer ground.

According to the Flash Update issued by the ISCG Secretariat, among the essential facilities impacted by the fire are the IOM primary healthcare clinic, MSF clinic, Turkish hospital and LPG distribution points. No BDRCS facility or infrastructure has been affected as a relatively small amount of programming is undertaken in the affected areas.

While there has been a history of several fires in the camp settlement in past times including two incidents in January this year, the intensity and scale of this latest fire is unprecedented. Cramped conditions in the severely congested settlement are believed to have contributed to the quick escalation of the fire.

The camp settlement in Cox’s Bazar is home to about 877,000 displaced people from Rakhine State in Myanmar who crossed the border into Bangladesh in 2017. The camps are the programming area of a multitude of humanitarian actors including the UN and the Bangladesh Red Crescent Society who are providing a range of humanitarian services to the camp population as well as a smaller population of local communities living on the periphery of the settlement, and who have been adversely affected by the large influx of displaced people.