23/02/2012 - These images are from the Umpiem refugee camp in northern Thailand and were taken in Decemeber 2011 when ECHO experts visited the camp to make an assessment of the humanitarian situation and the ECHO funded projects. 15,000 people, mostly from Burma/Myanmar live here. Earlier today fire broke out and quickly spread throughout the camp (to see today's video click here). NGOs based on the Thai-Burmese border report that more than 1 000 homes, schools and marketplaces were destroyed when a fire swept through the wooden and bamboo-constructed buildings. No deaths have been reported, although there are said to be several injured.
According to media reports the fire broke out as a family was cooking over a coal fire. The eyewitnesses spoke of scenes of panic as people tried to salvage their belongings from the flames as parents desperately searched for their children in the thick smoke.
The European Commission Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection department (ECHO) which maintains a Regional Support Office in Bangkok is deploying an expert to the camp to make an assessment of the humanitarian situation, he will arrive on site tomorrow.
ECHO has been provding funding for humanitarian assistance to the camp since 1995. In 2012 ECHO has already allocated €6.5 million mainly for food aid, health care and the provision of clean water and sanitation.