Hundreds of people have been killed in an explosion at a fuel depot in the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region in the South Caucasus. Unrecognized separatist authorities report at least 200 people injured and an unknown number of deaths near the capital, Stepanakert. The cause of the explosion is not yet known.
The separatist Interior Ministry said in a statement: “There were dead and wounded as a result of an explosion in a fuel depot near the Stepanakart-Askeran road.” The office of the human rights ombudsman of the separatist government, Gegam Stepanyan, said on Monday evening that at least 200 people were injured, most of whom were said to be in serious condition. It is still unclear what caused the explosion.
Pictures on social media show huge flames. According to politician Mitaksi Akopjan, many people were queuing to refuel and then flee the area to Armenia at the time of the explosion. Thousands of Armenians have already fled, but it is not yet clear whether the explosion is linked to the conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan.
The human rights office in the region asked the international community for help on Monday to treat seriously injured victims. “Nagorno-Karabakh’s medical capacity is insufficient to save human lives,” X, formerly known as Twitter, said. The humanitarian situation in the region has been precarious for some time. Azerbaijan has been closing the only access road from Armenia for months, leading to scarcity of food, medicine and fuel in the region.
Shelter in Armenia
6,650 refugees have already been registered in Armenia. The government in Yerevan mentioned this on Facebook. On Sunday there were only about a thousand.
More than 1,100 people have been provided with emergency accommodation, and a further 1,000 have found accommodation on their own. The government promised to provide housing for everyone. About 4,000 people still need shelter.
Armenia and Azerbaijan have been competing for control of the region for years. It is internationally recognized as part of Azerbaijan, but has an Armenian majority. These people fear for their future now that the Azerbaijanis have taken control, prompting many to flee to Armenia.
Representatives of Baku and Nagorno-Karabakh held a second meeting on Monday. A previous meeting, last week, did not yield any results. It is not yet clear whether that second meeting, in which the Russians played the role of mediator, achieved anything.
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