Main hearth guts Rohingya refugee camp in Delhi, all IDs charred

NEW DELHI: The Rohingya in Delhi have nowhere to go.

A major fire tore through their refugee camp in southeast Delhi’s area in the early hours of Sunday, devouring everything in its path. Though no one was seriously hurt, the approximately 230 residents of the camp have lost their shelter and all their valuables, including identity cards and special visas issued by the United Nations. Many have also lost documents related to their properties in Myanmar.

The Rohingya are a mostly Muslim people fleeing persecution in western Myanmar.

Fire department officials said the fire began at around 3 am and two fire tenders were initially sent to the spot. As the fire spread across the camp, eight more fire tenders were pressed into service. It took two hours to control the conflagration. No casualties were reported. One man, Vikas Kumar, who was sleeping in a garage adjacent to the camp, suffered burn injuries to the hand and has been admitted to a private hospital.

A preliminary probe revealed that the fire began in a toilet in the far left corner of the plot, where over 47 families live. Officials suspect a short-circuit in an electrical wire may have started the fire which then spread to shanties made mostly of asbestos, tin and plastic sheets.

Residents said they were woken up by the cries of people and when they emerged from their tents they saw massive flames enveloping the area. Syed Hussain, 35, said they had just enough time to wake up their children and family members. “People from the adjoining areas came and tried to douse the fire with buckets of water but the tents quickly caught fire and were destroyed,” Hussain, who has been living in the camp since 2012, recalled.

Locals claimed the camp, housing almost 100 women and 50 children, doesn’t have sufficient firefighting equipment despite this being the fourth fire in the six years since the camp came into existence. “We have been provided with only five small fire extinguishers. Apart from that, there is nothing else to tackle such situations,” Karimullah, a camp resident, claimed.

DCP (southeast) Chinmoy Biswal said police teams reached the area soon after the fire and were still providing the residents with basic necessities when reports last came in.

“A case under appropriate sections has been registered to further investigate the incident. Preliminary investigation has indicated that the fire started due to a short-circuit and spread in the area,” DCP Biswal said, adding that forensic experts and crime team personnel have been called in to investigate all possibilities regarding the origin of the fire.
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