VOICES FROM THE FIELDTHE IRC BLOG
IRC aiding survivors of deadly Thailand refugee camp fire
March 25, 2013 by Peter Biro
|A fire that blazed through the Ban Mae Surin refugee camp on Friday killed 37 people, injured more than 100 others, and left some 2,300 homeless. Photo: IRC|
BANGKOK, Thailand - The International Rescue Committee (IRC) is providing aid to survivors of a fire at a refugee camp in Thailand that killed 37 people on Friday.
The fire destroyed hundreds of makeshift huts at the Ban Mae Surin camp in northwest Thailand, which is home to some 3,500 ethnic Karen refugees who have fled ethnic conflict in neighboring Myanmar. The fire also destroyed the camp’s clinic and hospital.
Preliminary reports indicate that the blaze may have been started by a cooking accident.
“We are deeply saddened by this tragic event and the IRC is doing everything it can to provide swift aid and support to the survivors,” said Christine Petrie, director of IRC programs in Thailand.
An IRC medical team arrived on the scene shortly after the fire broke out, Petrie said, and is providing medical treatment, mosquito nets, blankets, and other essential support and supplies.
More than 100 refugees were injured in the blaze and the IRC has transferred some of the most seriously injured to nearby Thai hospitals. One man died from his burns on Monday.
The IRC has set up a temporary health facility to replace the camp clinic and is providing treatment and services alongside Thai health representatives. An IRC environmental health team is also working to ensure that the camp’s water supply is uninterrupted and is managing sanitation needs.
The fire left some 2,300 people homeless, most of whom are staying with other refugees or in makeshift tent shelters, Petrie said.
The Ban Mae Surin camp, which is located three miles (five kilometers) from the Myanmar border, was erected in 1992 and was intended to be a temporary shelter. But despite recent political reforms in Myanmar, the camp’s refugees are reluctant to return home, citing concern for their safety. Many were born and have grown up in the camp.
In addition to Ban Mae Surin, the IRC provides healthcare, water and other critical services to tens of thousands of refugees in eight other camps on the Thailand-Myanmar border.
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