IOM responds to fatal fire in Thai refugee camp
Thailand - IOM's offices in Mae Hong Son and Mae Sot responded to Friday's deadly fire in the Ban Mae Surin camp for refugees from Myanmar, which left at least 35 dead and hundreds homeless.
The tragedy occurred when sparks from a cooking fire caused a blaze which spread rapidly through the remote temporary settlement, which is made up of hundreds of bamboo dwellings.
IOM deployed two trucks to the rescue operation. These spent the night of the disaster distributing used clothes, medicine, water and tents provided by UNHCR. The vehicles were also on standby to ferry injured to hospital.
Local media quote a survivor named Sakotu who said he first heard people shouting, "Fire, fire!" He then went out of his house and tried to help others douse it. "The wind was strong, causing the fire to spread quickly and we had to run for our lives," he said.
Francesco Supit, Head of IOM's office in Mae Hong Son said that the incident had left survivors and staff in a state of shock. A team of ten IOM staff have been working around the clock in the remains of the camp.
Supit added that IOM's resettlement work would continue as planned. Several families had a lucky escape – they left the camp hours before the fire for new lives in the USA.
As of Sunday 40 per cent of those left homeless had been accommodated with their relatives in other parts of the camp, but several hundred were still sleeping in the open air and experiencing chilly conditions at night.
Aid agencies and local authorities are coordinating to ensure that basic needs are being met. Additional tents, blankets and plastic sheeting provided by UNHCR have been brought in by IOM from Mae Sot, the province bordering Mae Hong Son to the south.
Ban Mae Surin is one of nine temporary settlements for refugees from Myanmar, from which IOM coordinates resettlement movements to North America, Australia, the EU and other countries. Since 2004 IOM and its partners have resettled over 100,000 refugees from Thailand.
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IOM’s ROAP in Bangkok