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UNHCR and partners rush aid to Thailand refugee camp after fire

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UNHCR and partners rush aid to Thailand refugee camp after fire

23 March 2013

More than 30 refugees from Myanmar have died and four are seriously injured after a fire broke out on Friday afternoon in Ban Mae Surin refugee camp in Mae Hong Son province, north-western Thailand.

Many of the victims have been taken to local hospitals. The authorities are investigating the cause of the fire that destroyed hundreds of thatched huts in two camp sectors before it was put out on Friday evening. Some 2,300 refugees have lost their homes and possessions in the disaster. Initial reports suggest the blaze was sparked by a cooking accident.

"We are deeply saddened by this tragic incident and doing what we can to provide instant relief," said UNHCR's Representative in Thailand, Mireille Girard. "Our teams are returning to the camp this morning with plastic sheets, blankets, bed mats and other items to provide temporary emergency shelter before their homes can be rebuilt."

The camp's clinic and food distribution centre were also razed in the fire. The International Rescue Committee has sent transport and other immediate support for injured refugees. The International Committee of the Red Cross has also offered help for the seriously injured. The Border Consortium of non-governmental organizations is making arrangements for food to be provided.

Relief efforts are being coordinated by the Royal Thai Government, provincial and camp authorities, who administer the remote camp located in rough terrain 90 km from Mae Hong Son town.

Ban Mae Surin camp was set up in 1992 and is home to some 3,500 refugees who fled ethnic conflict in Myanmar.

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