Satellite Images Reveal How Massive Rohingya Exodus Is

One camp in Bangladesh has quadrupled in size in recent weeks
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Sep 21, 2017 8:03 AM CDT
This combination of satellite photos from Sept. 16, 2017, left, and May 25, 2017, right, shows the temporary shelters that have cropped up in the Kutupalong area of Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh.   (DigitalGlobe via AP)
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(Newser) – Massive, makeshift refugee camps are sprawling over farms and open land in southern Bangladesh as more than 420,000 Rohingya Muslims flee violent attacks in their predominantly Buddhist homeland of Myanmar. In a matter of weeks, thousands of temporary shelters have been erected in the Bangladesh district of Cox's Bazar, according to new before-and-after satellite images released to the AP. The images offer an expansive view of what journalists, government agencies, and aid groups have been seeing firsthand. Existing facilities are overwhelmed by streams of desperate families walking overland or clambering out of boats because they fear for their lives following attacks that some world leaders call ethnic cleansing.

Until now, the assumption was that the size of existing refugee camps had doubled in the past few weeks. But a Sept. 16 satellite image of just one camp, Kutupalong, shows it stretched about 1.5 square miles, about four times its former size. "Tents have sprung up all over the area. It's a dramatic expansion," says Stephen Wood, a senior imagery analyst at Colorado-based DigitalGlobe, which used high-resolution cameras in space to take photos of the camps. (Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi, whose government is accused of ethnic cleansing, says she is unsure why the exodus is happening.)

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