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1,200 refugees' homes destroyed

world Updated: Mar 02, 2008 16:32 IST

Thousands of Bhutanese refugees were without shelter after a major fire razed at least 1,200 huts and camps in Nepal's southeastern Jhapa district, officials said.

Seven refugees were also injured in the fire at Goldhap Bhutanese refugee camp but no casualty was reported, an official at the UN refugee agency UNHCR-Nepal told PTI.

The fire that had started from the godown of the UN World Food Programme (WFP) inside the camp at 7 pm yesterday spread to the residential camps where some over 10,000 refugees were residing in some 1,400 huts.

At least 1,200 huts were destroyed during the fire and only 200 huts remained safe, said Nini Gurung, Communication Officer at the UNHCR.

The government and the local agencies have been mobilized for rescue and rehabilitation works, she said. Firefighters were brought from neighbouring Biratnagar, Dharan, Damak and Mechi Municipalities for the rescue operations, an official said.

The government has announced NRS Rs 30 lakh immediate financial assistance for the victims, Gurung said. Home Minister Krishna Prasad Sitaula also inspected the site on Sunday morning to get a first hand report of the tragedy.

The refugees have been put up in temporary shelters in schools and nearby villages.

"We really appreciate the job done by the government and the local administration to help the victims," an official at the UNCHR said.

"We are yet to establish the real cause of the fire and the UNHCR is investigating the matter," the official said.