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12 Nov, 2015 00:42

Fierce blaze devastates Norway refugee shelter amid record migrant influx (VIDEO)

Fierce blaze devastates Norway refugee shelter amid record migrant influx (VIDEO)

Some 160 refugees had to be evacuated overnight after a devastating fire engulfed one of three shelters hosting asylum seekers in Norway’s Hemsedal area. The cause of the blaze, which partially gutted the building, is yet unknown.

The fire at a camp located in the small town of Tuv, started at around 02:00 local time (01:00 GMT), according to local media reports. It prompted an immediate evacuation of the162 refugees. No fatalities or injuries were reported.

The shelter’s kitchen and administrative section were burned to the ground, according to the NTB news agency. Rescuers believe the situation could have been much worse as the fire started in a part of the facility separate from where the residents were housed.

“It had been hopeless to try and extinguish the fire,” the fire department chief Dag Botnen told local VG news. “We could run out of water, and it could have gone much worse than it did.”

“We did not know if it was real, but assumed it was a false alarm again, so we waited for someone to turn it off,” Syrian Bassel Al-Taham told local VG news. “Suddenly a friend knocked on the door in panic and told us to get out. I took my daughter, 9, up from the bed and my son, 17, and hurried out.”

Hemsedal, located in central Norway, has a total of three facilities to accommodate refugees as the Scandinavian country has witnessed a surge in the number of asylum seekers. There is one transit center and one reception for unaccompanied minors.

Both the police and the fire department have not speculated on what might have caused the fire. Vandalism is feared to be one of the possibilities, the local press has reported. Norway’s neighbour, Sweden, has seen a number of arson attacks on facilities meant to house asylum seekers recently.

While Sweden is expecting up to 190,000 refugees to arrive by the end of 2015, the biggest per capita inflow of all European countries, Norway also said it registered a record number of newcomers.

Last week alone, the authorities said 2,452 people applied for asylum in Norway, bringing the total number to 24,400 applicants this year. Oslo expects to receive three times the 11,480 people who sought asylum in 2014.