Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Fire At Mae La Refugee Camp

A fire broke out in Zone B Section 4 and 5 at Mae La Refugee Camp on the Thai Burma Border in Thailand’s Tak Province at March 24 around 9.30pm.

Mae La Fire March 24 (Photo: KIC)

A Karen News reporter, at the camp spoke to a camp resident, Saw Hla Win, who was close to the fire when it broke out.

“We were asleep. Most people were in bed. We heard the camp announcement and people screaming. We just grabbed the baby and ran,” Saw Hla Win said.

Saw Hla Win noted that flames had quickly ripped through the bamboo refugee homes.

“It started near the main road. It’s hard to estimate how many houses are burning, but I guess it’s at the very least 30 houses are destroyed”

Eyewitnesses also said there is a possibility a warehouse storing materials for refugees may have been partially destroyed by the fire.

By 10.10 pm the camp residents and a local Thai fire truck had the fire under control.

According to Thai environmental officials Tak Province is currently one of the worst affected regions plagued by forest fires.

Fires have been a constant and recurring danger in Thailand’s nine refugee camps, where almost 130,000 refugees live. The homes of camp residents are made of wood or bamboo and roofs are covered with dry leaves.

In February 2012 a fire in Umpiem Mai refugee camp destroyed more than 1,000 homes affecting 4,400 refugees, while in December 2013 a fire destroyed approximately 120 homes in Thailand’s largest refugee camp, Mae La, leaving 600 refugees homeless. Later that year, in March, a fire in Ban Mae Surin refugee camp killed 37 refugees.

Nineteen huts were razed to the ground and 31 demolished to prevent a fire from spreading at a refugee camp on the Thai-Burmese border on Monday night, a camp official has confirmed to DVB.

According to Saw Tha Khe of the Mae La camp committee, no casualties have been reported.

“The fire broke out in Zone B at 9pm due to a candle,” he said.

Fire engines arrived 30 minutes later and the fire was under control around 10 pm, he said.

Nearly 300 people are now homeless and are taking shelter with relatives and friends in the camp, which is mainly made up of ethnic Karen refugees.

With thousands of wooden and bamboo huts situated in close proximity, Mae La is no stranger to fires. Blazes have caused fatalities and damage in April 2012 and December 2013.

Mae La refugee camp is the largest of the nine official refugee camps along the Thai-Burmese border with nearly 40,000 residents.