May 11, 2018 / 12:12 PM / 10 days ago

Monsoon threat looms for Rohingya camps

(Reuters) - Aid agencies face a “narrowing window” to prepare Rohingya refugee camps in southern Bangladesh for life-threatening floods in the approaching monsoon season, the aid coordinating group said this week.

Shacks cling to a landslide-prone hill in the Balukhali camp for Rohingya refugees in southern Bangladesh, February 13, 2018. Picture taken February 13, 2018. REUTERS/Andrew RC Marshall/Files

Click here for a Reuters graphic that takes a closer look at the areas at risk of flooding in the Kutupalong-Balukhali camp, the world's largest refugee camp, with about 618,000 Rohingya.

More than 16,000 refugees, many living in shacks clinging to steep, denuded hills, have been moved to safer areas, the Inter Sector Coordination Group said in its latest situation report on Thursday.

Bangladesh has also allocated more than 500 additional acres (202 hectares) of land for housing people at risk of a landslide or flood, it said.

“Still, the lack of sufficient safe space for at-risk refugees, and the lack of cyclone safe shelter, limits the possibilities for risk mitigation,” the ISCG said.

Nearly 700,000 Rohingya Muslims have fled to Bangladesh since last August to escape a military crackdown in neighbouring Myanmar, the United Nations and rights groups say.

Myanmar says it has been waging a legitimate counter-insurgency operation.

Most of the refugees now live in flimsy, bamboo-and-plastic structures perched on what were once forested hills.

An eight-year-old girl was killed in a landslide caused by pre-monsoon rains last Friday, the first of what aid agencies expect will be hundreds of casualties during the monsoon.

Reporting by Simon Scarr, Weiyi Cai and Jin Wu; Editing by Darren Schuettler

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