Ethnic Armenians from Nagorno-Karabakh sit in the back of a vehicle after crossing the border on their way to a registration center of the Armenian Ministry of Foreign Affairs in the town of Kornidzor, Armenia, 25 September 2023. EFE-EPA/NAREK ALEKSANYAN

Fuel depot explosion in Nagorno-Karabakh kills 20 people as ethnic Armenians flee

Tbilisi, Sep 26 (EFE).- An explosion at a fuel storage depot in Azerbaijan-controlled Nagorno-Karabakh, a region mainly inhabited by Armenians, has killed at least 20 people and left hundreds injured, the official Armenian news agency reported on Tuesday.

Ethnic Armenians from Nagorno-Karabakh wait after crossing the border and arriving at a registration center of the Armenian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, near the border town of Kornidzor, Armenia, 25 September 2023. EFE-EPA/NAREK ALEKSANYAN

The explosion occurred on Monday night at a fuel storage facility while thousands of ethnic Armenians were evacuating the disputed region following Azerbaijan’s swift military takeover last week.

The damaged tank is located near the road that connects the regional capital, Stepanakert, with Askeran city.

According to the Armenian news agency, at least 290 people sustained injuries in the explosion at the facility near the regional capital, Stepanakert. The cause of the explosion remains unknown at this time.

Dozens of injured people remained “in critical condition,” said the agency.

“There are many missing people,” a Karabakh health source told Armenpress.

The explosion coincided with the mass exodus of people from the region towards Armenia, prompted by the Azerbaijani military’s recapture of the enclave.

The Armenian government said it would send medical teams and supplies to aid the injured, the majority of whom have suffered varying degrees of burns.

Azerbaijani authorities have likewise pledged to send medicines and ample medical resources to assist the wounded.

The Armenian government said more than 13,000 people have arrived in his country since the Karabakh exodus began on Sunday.

Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan, on Sunday, urged the international community to ensure the Azerbaijani government’s protection of the rights and safety of ethnic Armenians in Nagorno-Karabakh.

“If these efforts do not yield tangible results, the government will warmly welcome our sisters and brothers from Nagorno-Karabakh in Armenia, providing them with the utmost care.”

Russian peacekeepers have been stationed in the region since 2020 when a Russia-brokered peace treaty ended a six-week war between Azerbaijan and ethnic Armenian forces in Nagorno-Karabakh. EFE