Many ethnic Rohingya Muslims have been killed or forced to flee homes due to attacks by Buddhists over the year [AFP]
Officials report at least 42 refugees killed and dozens more wounded by raging fire at crowded camp in north Thailand.
March 23, 2013
At least 42 Myanmar refugees have died in a raging fire at a camp in Thailand, officials have said.
Naramol Palawat, governor of Mae Hong Son, said hundreds of temporary thatch huts at the Ban Mae Surin refugee camp were reduced to ashes. She said the blaze was believed to have been started by a cooking accident.
Dozens of other people were injured in the fire with women, children and the elderly believed to make up the majority of the victims.
“The latest death toll we can confirm through military walkie-talkies is 42,” Palawat said, adding the toll was likely to rise further as rescue workers search the area.
A local district official said hot weather, combined with strong winds caused the fire to spread quickly among the thatched bamboo shelters.
Police on Saturday said around 400 temporary homes had been incinerated, while the Disaster Prevention and Mitigation Bureau said a school, clinic and two food warehouses had also been destroyed.
The Thai government pledged an investigation into the fire at the camp, which houses roughly 3,700 refugees.
Ten camps strung out along the Thai-Myanmar border house a total of about 130,000 people, who first began arriving in the 1980s.
Many of the refugees have fled conflict zones in ethnic areas of Myanmar, also known as Burma.
The density of the housing and lack of firefighting equipment mean large numbers of shelters are often destroyed, but Friday’s death toll was unusually high.
Mae Hong Son is about 925km north of Bangkok.