Over 13,500 migrants are currently in the process of fleeing Nagorno-Karabakh, following the announcement of the separatist region’s intention to reunite with Azerbaijan. As a tumultuous exodus unfolded in the region, a tragic incident occurred at a crowded gas station located just outside the regional capital of Stepanakert, Nagorno-Karabakh. This explosion, which transpired late on Monday, resulted in the loss of at least 20 lives and left nearly 300 others injured.
Officials representing the separatist authorities in Nagorno-Karabakh confirmed on Tuesday that a devastating explosion had claimed the lives of 20 people and inflicted injuries upon approximately 300 more. This calamity unfolded as thousands of individuals rushed to make their way to Armenia amidst the escalating tensions.
The immediate cause of the explosion remains unclear, but it took place as people were queuing up to fill their vehicles with gasoline at the gas station outside Stepanakert. The health department of the separatist government disclosed that 13 fatalities have been confirmed, and seven individuals succumbed to injuries sustained during the blast. Furthermore, it reported that 290 individuals were admitted to hospitals, with many still in critical condition.
In response to the unfolding crisis, Armenia’s health ministry revealed that a helicopter had transported some of the blast victims to Armenia on Tuesday morning, with additional flights expected to follow suit. Azerbaijani presidential aide Hikmet Hajiyev expressed readiness on social media platforms to provide medical assistance, while also sending burn-treatment medicine and other humanitarian aid to the affected region.
The scarcity of gasoline had plagued Nagorno-Karabakh for several months prior to this tragic incident, exacerbating concerns among local residents about their ability to access essential supplies and safely leave the area. The Armenian border stands approximately 22 miles away from Stepanakert.
In a significant development, the Azerbaijani military recently conducted a 24-hour blitz operation, decisively defeating Armenian forces and compelling separatist authorities to agree to disarmament and initiate discussions regarding the reintegration of Nagorno-Karabakh into Azerbaijan. While Azerbaijan has pledged to uphold the rights of ethnic Armenians in the region and restore vital supplies following a 10-month blockade, many local residents continue to harbor concerns of potential reprisals, prompting their decision to evacuate. The blockade imposed by Azerbaijan on the sole road linking Nagorno-Karabakh to Armenia had already resulted in severe shortages of essential commodities such as food, medicine, and fuel in the region.
Russian peacekeepers stationed in Nagorno-Karabakh have taken active measures to assist in the evacuation process, with approximately 700 individuals remaining in their camp as of Monday night. It is worth noting that Nagorno-Karabakh was formerly an autonomous region within Azerbaijan during the Soviet Union era, but separatist sentiments gained momentum in the waning years of the USSR, ultimately culminating in a devastating war.