Fires raze displaced Ugandans' camps

Some 30,000 war-displaced people in northern Uganda have been left homeless by a rash of accidental fires that swept through camps in the region over the weekend, UN officials said.

    The blaze killed three people and incinerated over 6000 huts

    A total of 6033 huts - each estimated to house five people - in five camps for internally displaced persons were destroyed by fire on Saturday and Sunday, Eliane Duthoit, of UN's Organisation for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, (OCHA) said on Monday.

    "The destruction has been extensive," Andrew Timpson, the head of OCHA in Gulu district, said. Some 4040 huts were destroyed in the district's Acet, Cope and Keyo camps.

    He added: "People have lost everything including food and non-food items.

    Children in Acet are sleeping in the open in the school."

    According to Juancarlos Carrera, ICRC spokesman in Kampala, the International Committee of the Red Cross and the Uganda Red Cross are distributing tarpaulins, utensils, and water containers to 1548 families that were left homeless by the fire at the Agweng camp in Lira district.

    Extensive damage

    Aid workers said although the destruction wreaked by the blaze was extensive, only three people - six fewer than initial reports from aid workers suggested - have been confirmed dead as a result of the fires which spread quickly due to strong winds.

    The refugees were displaced by
    Uganda's ongoing insurgency

    Uganda's state minister for disaster preparedness, Aporu Amongin, said a government team was now assessing the situation in the camps with an eye towards rearranging them with fire-breaks to prevent a recurrence of such large-scale devastation.

    "The camps mushroomed haphazardly and they were not planned," Amongin said.

    "We want during reconstruction ... to provide fire breaks so that the problem doesn't happen again and we will make sure that fireplaces are not so close to the huts."

    The camps are home to about 1.6 million people displaced by the ongoing, brutal 18-year-old war between the Ugandan government army and rebels from the Lord's Resistance Army.

    SOURCE: AFP


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