Huge fuel depot explosion in Karabakh kills dozens

Twenty people died in Monday’s fuel depot explosion in Nagorno-Karabakh
Twenty people died in Monday’s fuel depot explosion in Nagorno-Karabakh - AFP

At least 68 people died in Monday’s fuel depot explosion in Nagorno-Karabakh, the office of the region’s ombudsman said on Tuesday, as thousands fled the area after a successful Azerbaijani offensive.

Earlier, several media outlets cited the Armenian health minister as saying the death toll from the incident had risen to 125 after Karabakh authorities put the toll at 20 people dead as of Tuesday morning.

In the latest update, the office of Karabakh’s ombudsman, Gegham Stepanyan, said 105 people were still missing and nearly 300 had been injured in the blast.

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) also confirmed that the explosion had resulted in hundreds of burn victims. The ICRC added that it was delivering medical assistance to those suffering from burns and evacuating some people by ambulance, citing full hospitals and traffic as challenges.

The Azerbaijani presidency said Baku had also sent medicine to help the wounded.

It came as hundreds of vehicles were heading to Armenia from Nagorno-Karabakh following Azerbaijan’s lightning offensive against the separatist enclave, witnesses on the border said.

Elderly woman holding an infant waits at a registration centre near border town of Kornidzor, Armenia
Elderly woman holding an infant waits at a registration centre near border town of Kornidzor, Armenia - NAREK ALEKSANYAN/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

The flow of vehicles was continuous, with families piling their belonging on top of their cars and stopping only a few seconds at the last Azerbaijani checkpoint before entering Armenia along the so-called Lachin Corridor.

Armenia said on Tuesday that more than 28,000 refugees had fled since a first group arrived in the country on Sunday.

The influx overwhelmed the border town of Goris, where many refugees are staying.

Many slept in their cars laden with luggage, emerging on Tuesday with red-rimmed eyes and forming long queues outside phone shops to buy SIM cards.

Registration centre of Armenian ministry of foreign affairs at which ethnic Armenians from Nagorno-Karabakh are arriving
Registration centre of Armenian ministry of foreign affairs at which ethnic Armenians from Nagorno-Karabakh are arriving - NAREK ALEKSANYAN/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

Azerbaijan has pledged equal treatment for residents of the majority ethnic Armenian enclave and has sent aid.

Meanwhile in Brussels, envoys from Baku and Yerevan prepared to meet in the first such encounter since Azerbaijan’s swift defeat of separatist forces last week.

Simon Mordue, chief diplomatic adviser to European Council president Charles Michel, will chair the talks, Michel’s spokeswoman said.

Azerbaijan and Armenia, along with EU heavyweights France and Germany, will be represented by their national security advisers.

The leaders of both countries are scheduled to meet next month.