The death toll in a fireworks storage explosion in Armenia’s capital has risen to six, officials said on Monday, as rescuers comb through the rubble for victims.
At least 18 people remain missing and more than 60 others injured in the powerful blast that tore through the popular market in Yerevan.
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Video footage from the Surmalu market on Sunday showed grey smoke billowing over a building and people scurrying away from the area.
Some 70 rescue workers were searching the rubble for survivors, a statement by the civil defence authority said on Monday, after firefighters had largely extinguished the blaze following the explosion on Sunday.
Bystanders helped victims move to safe areas.
“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.
There was no immediate word on what caused the fireworks to ignite, but officials ruled out a ‘terror’ attack.
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.
“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.”