CANBERRA, Australia – Some 125 asylum-seekers were in police custody on the Pacific island nation of Nauru after a riot ended with fire destroying most of an Australian-run detention center there, an official said today.
The fire on Friday evening destroyed all the accommodation blocks, medical facilities and offices, and caused an estimated $55 million in damage, an Immigration Department spokeswoman said under the department’s usual condition of anonymity. Only the dining and recreation buildings survived the blaze.
She said 125 asylum-seekers remained in police custody today for the riots and blaze. She did not know how many had been charged. Nauru Police Commissioner Richard Britten did not immediately return a phone call.
The remaining 420 asylum-seekers had been transferred to a second detention camp under construction at another part of the tiny atoll that is home to fewer than 10,000, the spokeswoman said. They are now living in tents.
Australia pays Nauru and Papua New Guinea to hold asylum seekers who attempt to reach the Australian shore by boat. Their asylum claims are assessed at the island detention camps.