Search operation for one missing person continued at Surmalu blast site

YEREVAN — Armenian law-enforcement authorities say they have so far found no evidence to suggest that the recent deadly explosion and fire at a popular market in Yerevan was a result of a terrorist attack.

A total of 16 people were killed and 62 others were injured when a fireworks warehouse within the premises of the Surmalu shopping center exploded on August 14.

The death toll in the incident may rise to 17 as rescuers continue to search for one missing person presumed to have been at the epicenter of the explosion.

During a weekly cabinet meeting on Thursday Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan asked Argishti Kyaramyan, the head of the Investigation Committee, to comment on whether the explosion could be a terrorist attack.

“Various theories are being considered with the framework of the criminal case,” Kyaramyan said. “But at the moment there is no factual evidence in the case that would testify to a terrorist attack or other intentional crimes.”

Kyaramyan added that the evidence gained so far suggested that the explosion was a result of negligence.

Pashinyan, in his turn, said that the footage of the explosion and what proceeded it also suggested that there was smoke and fire before the powerful explosion that triggered a massive blaze in the sprawling shopping center.

The premier also reminded about his instructions after a powerful explosion at an ammonium nitrate warehouse in the port of Beirut in Lebanon two years ago to inspect all facilities in Armenia where explosive materials were stored and where there was a risk of similar explosions.

He said that the inspection conducted at the Surmalu shopping center in the spring of 2021 was part of the fulfilment of his instruction and asked the head of the State Supervision Service to submit a report on how his instruction was fulfilled in general.

Minister of Emergency Situations Armen Pambukhchyan reported that the search operation for one missing person continued at the scene of the tragedy. He said that rescue workers were looking for one missing person feared to be dead, since that person was near the very epicenter of the explosion.

Health Minister Anahit Avanesyan, meanwhile, said that most of the 62 people who were injured in the explosion and fire had already been discharged from hospitals and the few remaining patients were on their way to recovery. She confirmed that all current and future costs for the treatment of all injured persons were covered from the state budget.

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