5 killed, dozens injured after fireworks warehouse explodes in Armenian mall

Armenia's Health Ministry said 61 people had been injured, with several treated in hospital. PHOTO: REUTERS

YEREVAN (REUTERS, AFP) - Blasts ripped through a fireworks warehouse in a shopping mall in the Armenian capital of Yerevan on Sunday (Aug 14), Russian news agencies reported, killing at least five people and injuring more than 60.

The death toll from the explosion rose to five on Monday.

Four women and one man died, over 60 were injured and 19 were missing after Sunday’s blast at the Surmalu wholesale market, the Ministry of Emergency Situations said.

Video footage 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. Bystanders helped victims move to safe areas.

Interfax news agency quoted Armenia's Emergency Ministry as saying the body of a third victim had been recovered. Officials had earlier reported two deaths.

Emergencies Minister Armen Pambukhchyan, quoted by 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 Emergencies Ministry said initial investigation showed two large explosions brought down part of a building housing fireworks.

Armenia's Health Ministry said 61 people had been injured, with several treated in hospital.

It was not immediately clear what caused the fireworks to detonate.

In all, 200 firefighters and medical workers were sent to the scene, as well as fire engines and construction site equipment.

Rescue workers used a digger to clear away rubble, an AFP journalist at the scene reported earlier.

The disaster comes as the country of three million people is still recovering from a 2020 war with Azerbaijan, which ended in a heavy defeat and sparked a political crisis.

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