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25 Sep, 2023 16:50

Multiple dead in Nagorno-Karabakh blast

A major explosion has rocked a fuel storage depot near a highway in the disputed region
Multiple dead in Nagorno-Karabakh blast

A powerful blast has rocked a fuel storage facility in Nagorno-Karabakh, authorities in the disputed region said on Monday. The facility is near a highway linking the region’s self-styled capital of Stepanakert (known as Khankendi in Azerbaijan) to the town of Askeran in the northeast.

Videos of the incident shared on social media showed a fire raging over the area and a plume of thick black smoke. The highway near the fuel depot appeared to contain heavy traffic. According to reports, a large number of vehicles were lining up for gas at the time of the blast. 

The Nagorno-Karabakh Ministry of Health has confirmed that at least 20 people were killed in the explosion, adding that 290 victims suffering from various degrees of burns have been hospitalized, with dozens in extremely serious condition. The ministry also noted that many people are still considered missing as they were burned and cannot be identified.

Armenian authorities have not commented on the incident, while officials in Baku and the Russian peacekeeping force stationed in the disputed region are also yet to issue any statements.

The incident occurred as large numbers of ethnic Armenians attempt to leave Nagorno-Karabakh for Armenia, following the imposition of control by Azerbaijani forces. Baku launched “counter-terrorism measures of a local nature” in the disputed region last Tuesday, citing an alleged Armenian military buildup. Yerevan denied the accusations.  

A day after the start of the operation, the authorities in Nagorno-Karabakh announced a ceasefire with Azerbaijan, following a proposal by Russian peacekeepers. The leaders of the self-proclaimed Nagorno-Karabakh Republic told Reuters that as many as 120,000 Karabakh Armenians could flee their homes out of fear of ethnic cleansing. Azerbaijani officials have vowed to guarantee the rights of ethnic Armenians during the re-integration of the region.  

According to the Interfax news agency, 6,650 people have thus far arrived in Armenia from Nagorno-Karabakh.