The fire erupted shortly after midnight in the Nayapara refugee camp in Cox’s Bazar, gutting about 550 shelters and 150 shops. A community centre is also said to have been destroyed.
About 3,500 Rohingya refugees, including children, lost their homes and belongings in the blaze, in the middle of winter and the coronavirus pandemic, UN agencies said.
No lives were lost, and the fire was brought under control in a few hours by firefighters, volunteers and refugees.
The Nayapara camp hosts about 22,500 refugees, of whom about 17,800 are women, children and the elderly.
UN agencies have been on the ground since early Thursday morning, assessing the damage and helping the affected.
“We are working with our Government and NGO partners, other UN agencies, and Rohingya refugees to help people who have lost their homes and possessions during last night’s terrible fire in the refugee camp at Nayapara,” said Marin Din Kajdomcaj, an official with the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) in Cox’s Bazar.
The UN World Food Programme (WFP) is providing emergency food assistance, including hot meals to families in need.
Alongside, humanitarian partners from the Inter Sector Coordination Group (ISCG), Bangladesh Red Crescent and NGOs are also assisting the affected people.
The complex Rohingya refugee crisis erupted in August 2017, following attacks on remote police outposts in western Myanmar by armed groups alleged to belong to the community. These were followed by systematic counter attacks against the minority, mainly Muslim, Rohingya, which human rights groups, including senior UN officials, have said amounted to ethnic cleansing.
In the weeks that followed, over 700,000 Rohingya – the majority of them children, women and the elderly – fled their homes for safety in Bangladesh, with little more than the clothes on their backs, joining over 200,000 others sheltering there as a result of earlier displacements from Myanmar.