- More than 13,500 people are fleeing Nagorno-Karabakh following news that the breakaway region plans to rejoin Azerbaijan.
- As residents rushed out of the area, a full gas station outside the Nagorno-Karabakh regional capital of Stepanakert exploded, killing 20 late Monday.
- At least 13 bodies have been found and another 290 people remain in hospital since the blast.
At least 20 people were killed and nearly 300 others injured in an explosion at a busy gas station in Nagorno-Karabakh as thousands of people rushed to leave the cross in Armenia, separatist authorities in the region said on Tuesday.
More than 13,500 people – about 12% of the region’s population – have fled across the border following Azerbaijan’s swift military operation to fully reclaim the breakaway region after three decades of separatist rule, Armenia’s government said on Tuesday morning.
The explosion occurred as people lined up to fill up their cars at a gas station outside the regional capital Stepanakert late on Monday. The separatist government’s health ministry said 13 bodies had been found and seven people had died of injuries from the blast, the cause of which remains unclear.
THOUSANDS OF ARMENIANS FLEE NAGORNO-KARABAKH AS AZERBAIJAN DISCOVERS APRILIST AREA
He added that 290 people have been hospitalized and dozens of them remain in serious condition.
Armenia’s health ministry said a helicopter brought some victims of the blast to Armenia on Tuesday morning and more flights were expected.
Aide to the president of Azerbaijan, Hikmet Hajiyev, told X, formerly Twitter, that hospitals in Azerbaijan were ready to treat victims, but not if they had been taken to them. Azerbaijan has sent medicine to treat burns and other humanitarian aid, he said.
Gasoline has been in short supply in Nagorno-Karabakh for months, and the explosion further adds to the region’s residents’ concern about whether they will be able to evacuate. The border with Armenia is about 22 miles from Stepanakert.
Cars carrying heavy loads on their roofs crowded the streets of Stepanakert and residents stood or lay on the pavements next to piles of luggage.
Azerbaijan’s military routed Armenian forces in a 24-hour airstrike last week, forcing separatist authorities to agree to lay down their arms and start talks on the “reintegration” of Nagorno-Karabakh into Azerbaijan.
RUSSIA ACCUSES WEST OF FEEDING CONFLICT, AVOIDS UKRAINE IN DAY 5 SPEECH AT UN GENERAL ASSEMBLY
While Azerbaijan has pledged to respect the rights of Armenians in the region and restore supplies after a 10-month blockade, many residents of the region feared reprisals and decided to flee. Azerbaijan’s blockade of the only road connecting Nagorno-Karabakh to Armenia has caused severe shortages of food, medicine and fuel in the region.
Moscow said Russian peacekeepers in Nagorno-Karabakh were helping the evacuation. About 700 people remained at the peacekeeping camp as of Monday night.
Nagorno-Karabakh was an autonomous region within Azerbaijan under the Soviet Union, but separatist sentiment grew in the dying years of the USSR and then erupted into war.
CLICK HERE TO GET THE FOX NEWS APP
Nagorno-Karabakh came under the control of ethnic Armenian forces, backed by the Armenian army, in separatist fighting that ended in 1994. During the 2020 war, Azerbaijan took back parts of Nagorno-Karabakh along with surrounding territories that had been claimed by Armenian forces during the previous conflict.
As part of the truce that ended the 2020 fighting, Russia deployed a peacekeeping force of about 2,000 to the region. But Armenian officials and regional authorities complained that peacekeepers were unwilling or unable to end the blockade.