Tripura camp inferno

At least 16 people, including five children and six women, were burned to death and over 100 injured in one of northeast India’s worst infernos at Gachhirampara-Naisingpara in Tripura on Saturday. Officials said the devastating fire left 3,500 people homeless and completely gutted the thickly populated Gachhirampara-Naisingpara Bru refugee camp in north Tripura, about 185km from Agartala and 17km from Mizoram’s Kanchanpur subdivision. Chief minister Manik Sarkar on Sunday visited the Reang refugee camp. The CM, accompanied by director general of police Selim Ali and state social welfare minister Bijita Nath, interacted with the injured Reang refugees from Mizoram. He later held a meeting with officials of the North Tripura district administration at Kanchanpur Dak Bungalow and ordered for distribution of relief on a war footing. A team of seven specialist doctors also rushed to Gachhirampara-Naisingpara from Agartala on Sunday to assist the local physicians on the spot. Of the total six evacuee camps in Kanchanpur, Naisingpara is the largest camp, where 19,743 people of the 3,014 families are huddled, officials said. The camp was heavily crowded and had virtually no water source in the dry hilly region. The fire, suspected to have begun from a kitchen, immediately engulfed the series of bamboomade thatched huts. Firefighters from all adjoining subdivisions rushed to the spot but could not do much in the absence of water. “The fire went beyond control as the area is dry and windy. The fire service vehicles had to rush back to far off places for water and then return to the camp that could not help douse the flames,” said fire service DG Amitabha Kar. “It was virtually hell fire of biblical proportion. The flames kept on devouring huts after huts, acrid smoke billowed up and then covered the area. And then there was stench of burned human flesh,” said local resident Rjendra Reang over the phone. “It was a nightmare coming true even as fire service, police, camp inmates and locals stood helpless in absence of water.” He said a minimum of 500 huts were completely reduced to ashes. “Even chicken and pigs could not escape the fire. Deaths could have been many more had the youth not gone for jhum (shifting) cultivation,” he added. Officials said all the houses and huts in about 1km radius were destroyed. Kanchanpur SDM Dilip Chakma said the toll was likely to rise as the situation was virtually beyond control.

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