Death toll in Thailand refugee camp fire reaches 37; UNHCR aids victims

News Stories, 26 March 2013

© UNHCR/K.Santidhanyaroj
In the aftermath of the fire in Ban Mae Surin refugee camp, UNHCR has sent plastic sheets, tents, blankets and sleeping mats to help some 2,300 Myanmar refugees who lost their homes.

BANGKOK, Thailand, March 26 (UNHCR) The UN refugee agency said on Tuesday that the death toll from a fire that swept through a refugee camp on Thailand's border with Myanmar has risen to 37, while 2,300 refugees have been left homeless.

The fire broke out in Ban Mae Surin camp in Mae Hong Son province on Friday afternoon. It spread quickly to destroy more than 400 homes, a school, clinic, warehouse, community facilities as well as government and aid agency offices. Refugees with serious burns have been taken to local hospitals.

The Thai authorities are investigating the cause. They are also leading relief efforts in the government-administered camp, working closely with UNHCR and NGOs, including International Rescue Committee (IRC), The Border Consortium and the Catholic Office for Emergency Relief and Refugees (COERR).

The survivors are being provided with food and drinking water.

Temporary health services have been set up and the IRC is working with Thailand's Ministry of Public Health to provide psycho-social counselling to the affected population.

Some of the refugees have moved in with their relatives in the camp.

Families sleeping near a river that runs through the camp are being advised to move to minimize the risk of disease outbreak.

Discussions are under way on the location of temporary sites as people are currently too traumatized to rebuild their homes in the affected areas. The Border Consortium is repairing communal buildings and spaces including a school and football field to host some families. IRC will set up latrines at these temporary sites.

UNHCR has meanwhile sent some 60 family-sized tents, more than 800 plastic sheets and 1,200 blankets and sleeping mats to the camp. The authorities and NGOs are also providing mosquito nets, clothing and other supplies.

UNHCR and its partners are also working to identify vulnerable refugees among those affected by the fire, including pregnant women, unaccompanied children and the disabled, to make sure their special needs are met.

Ban Mae Surin refugee camp was established in 1992 and hosts some 3,500 refugees, mostly from Kayah state in eastern Myanmar. It is one of nine border camps in western Thailand housing an estimated 120,000 refugees from Myanmar.