COX’S BAZAR, Bangladesh, May 27, (Agencies): Marooned on a dusty slope in the world’s largest refugee camp, Osiur Rahman looked to the hill where a Rohingya girl was buried in a landslide just days earlier and contemplated his chances should the earth give way beneath his feet. “Our families would be killed. There are children everywhere around here.
We constantly fear that rain could trigger a landslide,” the 53-yearold told AFP on the steep embankment where he lives with nine family members in a bamboo shack. For the 700,000 Rohingya Muslims who have fled to southeast Bangladesh in the past nine months, the approaching monsoon season poses the most serious threat since they were violently expelled from Myanmar.
Close to one million of the stateless Muslim minority live in the Cox’s Bazar district but the new arrivals, stranded on unstable hills in bamboo and plastic shacks, are especially vulnerable.
A massive operation to shore up the camps against disaster is in overdrive, with bulldozers levelling hills and refugees bunkering down however they can. But as the rains approach, the young girl’s death this month in a torrent of mud and rock has heightened fears of a much greater tragedy. There is a dearth of safe land to relocate the estimated 200,000 refugees in direct danger of floods and landslides, and just 21,000 have been moved so far.
“We could literally have lives lost as people slide down hillsides and valleys are fl ooded with water,” Kevin J. Allen, head of the UNHCR refugee agency’s operations in Cox’s Bazar, told AFP. “They could face yet again another emergency, this time driven by mother nature.” The camps’ makeshift homes are predicted to receive more than 2.5 metres (eight feet) of rainfall over three months starting June — roughly triple what Britain gets in a year.