-  Saturday 24 October 2020

Fire destroys refugee camp in Nepal

 -  AP

Kathmandu, March 03 2008 - Relief agencies rushed aid Monday to about 10,000 Bhutanese refugees who lost their shelter and nearly all their belongings when a fire razed their camp in southeastern Nepal, officials said.

Jaya Mukunda Khanal, the chief government administrator in the area, said relief groups were setting up tents and plastic shelters and building temporary toilets for the refugees after the fire over the weekend.

"Our focus has been to give them immediate relief, but we are appealing for help from aid groups to rebuild their huts," said Khanal, administrator of Jhapa district, about 310 miles southeast of the capital, Katmandu.

The temperatures were warm enough for the refugees to spend some time in the open, but it was a priority to provide some kind of shelter for them, Khanal said. The high temperatures in the area were about 86 degrees Fahrenheit, and the lows were about 15 F.

Clinics also were set up to provide medical aid and workers were clearing up the debris left by the fire, he said.

The U.N. refugee agency, UNHCR, said other relief agencies were pouring into the area to provide emergency shelter, food and water.

Some 1,300 makeshift bamboo huts were destroyed at the Goldhap refugee camp before the blaze was brought under control Saturday night. The fire left estimated 10,000 refugees shelterless, according to Khanal.

Golhap is one of seven refugee camps in southeastern Nepal where more than 100,000 ethnic Nepalis — a Hindu minority in Bhutan for centuries — have been living as refugees since the early 1990s. They were forced out by Bhutanese authorities who wanted to maintain the country's dominant Buddhist culture.

Bhutan refuses to allow the refugees to return, claiming most left voluntarily and renounced their citizenship.

Relations between Nepal and Bhutan have been strained by the refugee issue. There have been several rounds of talks between top officials from both nations, but no significant progress has been made.

Source : AP

Other articles by reporter AP

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