A handout photo made available by Artsakh / Nagorno-Karabakh Human Rights Ombudsman shows firefighters on the site of the fire after an explosion of the petrol warehouse near the Stepanakert-Askera highway in Stepanakert, Nagorno-Karabakh, 25 September 2023 (issued 26 September 2023). EFE/EPA/ARTSAKH / NAGORNO-KARABAKH HUMAN RIGHTS OMBUDSMAN HANDOUT HANDOUT EDITORIAL USE ONLY/NO SALES HANDOUT EDITORIAL USE ONLY/NO SALES

Death toll rises to 68 in fuel depot explosion in Nagorno-Karabakh

Tbilisi, Sep 27 (EFE).- Death toll from an explosion at a fuel storage depot in Azerbaijan-controlled Nagorno-Karabakh, a region primarily inhabited by Armenians, climbed to 68, according to the Nagorno-Karabakh Human Rights Ombudsman.

Ethnic Armenians from Nagorno-Karabakh wait gathering near a Red Cross registration centre in Goris, Armenia, 26 September 2023. EFE/EPA/NAREK ALEKSANYAN EPA-EFE/NAREK ALEKSANYAN

Of the 68 bodies, only 21 have been identified by the Stepanakert Bureau of Forensic Medical Examination, the Ombudsman said late Tuesday.

There are also 105 people missing from the incident, which 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 number of wounded remains 290, of which 168 have been receiving medical attention in Armenia.

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

The citizens of Nagorno-Karabakh have been desperately looking for fuel for their journey to Armenia, which can last more than 20 hours due to the traffic jams in the Lachin corridor, reopened by Azerbaijan after more than nine months of blockade.

Helicopters from Armenia, after receiving permission from Azerbaijan, evacuated 96 patients with the Russian peacekeepers, while 72 were transported in ambulances accompanied by the International Committee of the Red Cross.

Armenian Health Minister Anahit Avanesian said at a press conference that 67 people were receiving treatment at the National Center for Burns of the Ministry of Health and their condition was “extremely serious.” EFE