Landslides triggered by monsoon rains killed at least five children on Wednesday near camps on the Bangladesh-Myanmar border housing one million Rohingya refugees, police said.
Aid agencies have been warning of the potential for catastrophe as heavy rains lash Cox’s Bazar district, where many of the huge concentration of refugees live on exposed hillsides.
The latest victims, who were not Rohingya refugees, died after three days of heavy rain set off a torrent of mud, according to police.
“Four children from the same family were sleeping when they were buried under a chunk of hill as it gave way early this morning,” said Cox’s Bazar police station chief Fariduddin Khandaker. Another 6-year-old child died in the neighbouring town of Ramu, police added.
The two towns are close to Kutupalong, the world’s largest refugee camp, where more than half a million Rohingya live in tarpaulin and bamboo shanties, mainly on hills where trees have been torn down to make way for the influx.
Rohingya have converged on Cox’s Bazar after violence in Myanmar in recent years and some 700,000 have arrived since August last year when the Buddhist-dominated country’s military launched a crackdown which the UN has said could constitute ethnic cleansing.
Landslides have killed at least 18 people in the region since last month, including a Rohingya boy crushed to death by a collapsing mud wall at Kutupalong.
Some 200,000 Rohingya who live on hills around the refugee camps are at risk in the monsoon rains, according to disaster relief officials.
Around 37,000 people have been moved to safer locations ahead of the monsoon, said Bangladesh’s refugee commissioner Mohammad Abul Kalam.
He said authorities and relief agencies were “on alert” after three days of non-stop rains raised the risk of tragedy.
Last year, monsoon landslides in Cox’s Bazar and the nearby Chittagong hill tracts killed at least 170 people.
Aid agencies say waterborne disease are also on the rise as flood water mingles with latrines.