According to the Armenian Ministry of Emergency Situations, nobody was killed or injured in the blaze that hit a small neighborhood in the city center. Ministry officials suggested that it was caused by a gas explosion.
The fire left about 70 residents looking for shelter, as the blaze is still being investigated. While several of those who lost their property now stay at their relatives’, for many the past 48 hours have proved a catastrophe. Children do not attend school, while their parents do not go to work. They say the fire destroyed all their winter clothes.
“This is the biggest fire registered in Yerevan in the last several years,” ministry spokesman Nikolay Grigorian told RFE/RL’s Armenian service. “It was more powerful than the fire that destroyed the Justice Ministry building [in February 2008.]”
Grigorian said 21 fire engines were rushed to the scene to put out the flames. Some of the mostly old houses were still smoldering early in the afternoon on Wednesday. They were being extinguished by two fire trucks.
The residents of the destroyed houses spent the night on the street. “I woke up at around 11 p.m. after my neighbors started shouting ‘Fire! Fire’ and there was an explosion,” one of them told RFE/RL.
“There were flames all over the place. I could only manage to pick my three-year-old child and get out of the house. My house is now destroyed, nothing is left of it,” said the young woman.
It is not yet clear whether she and her neighbors will be provided with new housing or paid financial compensation by the state.
Grigorian complained that the fire-fighters’ access to the area was hampered by “irregular” structures built there since Soviet times.
The residents claimed that the municipal authorities have long tolerated the illegal construction while not allowing them to repair their homes on the grounds that the neighborhood is slated for redevelopment. “They wouldn’t fix the houses or let us do that,” said.