Armenian warehouse blast death toll rises to five


FILE: A fire outbreak

Rescuers have recovered two more bodies from the site of a fireworks warehouse blast in Armenia, bringing the death toll from Sunday’s accident to five, the TASS news agency cited Armenia’s emergencies ministry as saying on Monday.

Blasts ripped through the warehouse in a shopping mall in the Armenian capital of Yerevan on Sunday, causing parts of the building to collapse and injuring dozens of people.

Video footage from the Surmalu market on Sunday showed grey smoke billowing over a building and people scurrying away from the area.

Rescue workers sifted through twisted metal and rubble in a search for survivors, as clouds of dust and smoke hung in the air.

“Fireworks, fireworks — everything shattered in one minute,” said one witness. “People could not get out of the stores.”

The emergency situations ministry said in a statement that preliminary information indicated that two large explosions had brought down part of a building housing fireworks, which set off a fire.

But it did not say what had detonated the fireworks.

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At least five people were killed, and about 40 were hospitalised, it added.

Minister of Emergency Situations Armen Pambukhchyan, quoted by the Sputnik Armenia news agency, said the fire had been extinguished, but strong winds still posed a threat.

He said rescue teams would continue the search for survivors through the night.

The office of Yerevan’s mayor said it was unclear how many people remained trapped under the rubble.

“It’s been an utter shock”, said Maria Titizan, a Yerevan-based journalist. “This is the first time in my memory that such an explosion, such a tragedy has happened in the capital city.

“Everybody is glued to the news and social media to find out what’s happening.”

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