A tragedy of horrific proportions was avoided over the weekend by the quick action and cool thinking of an International Organization for Migration (IOM) staffer on duty at the Miral Temporary Reception Centre in Velika Kladuša, Bosnia and Herzegovina.
At 06:20 Saturday, a fire broke out on the first floor of a building accommodating 247 migrants and refugees. The first person to react was IOM’s Edvin Kaloper, who was working the night shift with his colleague Haris Pajalic. Kaloper noticed smoke coming out from the top floor of the dormitory and immediately called the local fire brigade, who were on the scene within minutes.
“The first thought I had was a memory of our training: ‘Do not try to extinguish the fire, save lives!’” said Kaloper.
All of the people in the building were brought out safely; however, 28 suffered non-life-threatening injuries, 19 of which required hospitalization. Eight migrants remain in hospital today, including two who jumped out of windows.
IOM staff trained to respond to such events are always present in the centre.
“IOM staff organized a swift evacuation within a few minutes,” said Peter Van der Auweraert, IOM Chief of Mission in Bosnia and Herzegovina and Sub-Regional Coordinator for the Western Balkans.
“Also, the rapid response by Velika Kladuša firefighters ensured that there were no casualties and the fire was quickly put under control. This is a good example of collaboration in crisis at its best.”
The Miral migrant centre was established in November 2018, following an increasing need for emergency accommodation for migrants and refugees trying to reach the European Union. Prior to that, migrants stayed at a nearby informal camp in appalling conditions.