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More than 60 homes lost in Karenni refugee camp fire

Smouldering remains of houses, pictured in Ward 5 of Karenni Refugee Camp (1) after a fire on the night of 5 July 2017. (PHOTO: DVB)

More than 150 ethnic Karenni people have been left without shelter or household supplies after their houses were razed to the ground in a fire at a refugee camp in northern Thailand.

“The fire broke out in Ward 5 of Karenni Refugee Camp (1) at around 10pm on 5 July,” said a refugee in the camp, speaking by telephone to DVB. “About 30 houses were burnt down, but another 30 homes were dismantled to prevent the fire from spreading.”

Karenni Refugee Camp (1) hosts some 2,500 houses, most of which are constructed from wood and bamboo. Also known as Ban Mai Nai Soi, the refugee camp has a population of around 10,000, according to the most recent figures from The Border Consortium (TBC). The camp is no stranger to fires, with blazes in 2011, 2013, and April last year.

“Although this incident is very upsetting for the camp, fortunately the fire was contained and there were no serious injuries,” said Sally Thompson, TBC’s executive director, speaking to DVB on Monday. “It is not a major emergency, and the Ban Mai Nai Soi community will likely rally quite quickly to repair buildings and replace foodstuffs and lost/damaged household items.”

Lwi Si, the secretary of the Karenni Refugee Committee, said, “The fire spread really quickly that night. People could not save their belongings and clothes. Fortunately, no one was injured, but now they have no clothes, utensils, blankets or materials for building shelters. Some have gone to relatives’ or friends’ houses.

“The Mae Hong Son district administrator’s office and some NGOs have come with donations of blankets and tarpaulins, but it still falls short of what we need.”

He added: “The cause of the fire is still being investigated.”