Officials said on Tuesday that at least 20 people had been killed, and nearly 300 wounded, in an explosion at a fuel depot in the breakaway Nagorno-Karabakh region of Azerbaijan on Monday.
Emergency workers took 290 patients “with various degrees of burns” to four different medical facilities after the blast near the city of Stepanakert, the health ministry of Nagorno-Karabakh said in a statement.
Seven of those people died, and 13 bodies were recovered at the site and taken to a forensics office, the ministry said. Dozens of patients were still in critical condition, it said.
“The doctors and medical staff in Stepanakert are doing their best to save the lives of the wounded in these difficult and cramped conditions,” the ministry said.
The cause of the explosion was not immediately clear. The Associated Press reported that it occurred as people were lining up to refuel their cars as they were evacuating Nagorno-Karabakh.
Video showed a plume of smoke rising from a fuel depot after an explosion on Monday near Stepanakert in the Nagorno-Karabakh region.CreditCredit…Siranush Sargsyan/X, via Associated Press
Thousands of ethnic Armenians have been fleeing the breakaway region for Armenia since a military offensive last week brought the enclave back under Azerbaijan’s control.
Armenians and Azerbaijanis had lived peacefully around Nagorno-Karabakh, a region the size of Rhode Island in the South Caucasus, for decades until the fall of the Soviet Union. Ethnic Armenians took control of the region in 1994 with the backing of the Armenian military.
Azerbaijan led a 44-day war in 2020 against the ethnic Armenian leadership, gaining control of most of the region. Last December, Azerbaijan installed a blockade to the only road connecting Nagorno-Karabakh to Armenia, cutting off the region from food and fuel supplies and worsening a humanitarian crisis.
Nagorno-Karabakh’s human rights ombudsman, Gegham Stepanyan, who was elected to the role by the breakaway republic’s lawmakers, said on Monday after the explosion that most of the victims were in severe condition, without providing details, and warned that the region did not have adequate medical facilities.