UNHCR rushes supplies to fire-gutted camp in Nepal
KATHMANDU, Nepal, November 12 (UNHCR) - Some 400 refugees from Bhutan have received emergency assistance after a fire, believed to have started by accident, swept through a camp in eastern Nepal.
The fire broke out last Friday evening in Beldangi 1, which is one of seven camps housing refugees from Bhutan in eastern Nepal. The fire departments from nearby Damak and Birtamod worked with the refugees and police to get the fire under control within two hours.
No one suffered burns, although about 10 refugees sustained minor injuries such as bruises and cuts as they dismantled 31 huts to prevent the fire from spreading further. All the injuries were treated in the camp's health facilities and no external referrals were needed. A total of 68 huts were destroyed, and the affected families have sought shelter in a school complex in the camp.
The authorities are investigating the cause of the fire. Initial findings suggest that it was an accident, and not due to arson or foul play.
"It is most unfortunate that such a large number of houses were gutted by the fire and families affected during the Tihar festival," said Abraham Abraham, UNHCR representative in Nepal, referring to the five-day Hindu festival of lights, when families typically decorate their homes with lit candles and oil lamps. "I would like to express my sorrow for those injured and wish them a speedy recovery."
UNHCR, working with the UN World Food Programme (WFP) and non-governmental organizations, has taken measures to rehabilitate the affected families. WFP food rations have been distributed. Debris is being cleared and new shelter materials are being provided to help the affected families to rebuild their houses.
Almost 110,000 refugees from Bhutan are living in eastern Nepal's seven camps. After 17 years of impasse on solutions, UNHCR is now laying the groundwork for third country resettlement for those refugees who opt for this solution. The first group of accepted refugees is expected to leave Nepal's camps early next year.
By Nini Gurung in Kathmandu, Nepal