YEREVAN — Firefighters and rescuers on Monday morning continued to search for over a dozen people missing after powerful explosions and fire at a sprawling Yerevan market the previous day in which at least 7 people were killed and over 60 others injured.
Rescue workers sifted through twisted metal and rubble in a search for survivors throughout the night as firefighters continued to fight the blaze amid clouds of dust and smoke in the air just off the center in the Armenian capital.
The Armenian Ministry of Emergency Situations said initial investigation showed two large explosions brought down part of a building housing fireworks.
It was not immediately clear what caused the fireworks to detonate.
Ministry official Gari Armaghanyan told RFE/RL’s Armenian Service that four of the seven dead had already been identified. He added that another 16 people were still unaccounted for while the search for survivors continued as of 8 am on Monday.
“At the moment, firefighting and rescue-and-search operations are ongoing, the fire has not yet been contained, the search work continues,” the official said.
Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan and a number of other high-ranking officials visited the blast site Monday morning to survey the damage.
The Prosecutor General’s office has opened a criminal investigation into the explosion, saying it is not ruling out any possible causes. As of now, it remains unclear how the fireworks detonated.
Earlier, a criminal case was instituted over a possible breach of fire-safety regulations that caused human death or other grave consequences. Investigators said they would start looking into possible causes of the explosions and fire once conditions permit.
Meanwhile, Minister of Emergency Situations Armen Pambukhchyan told reporters on Monday that the version that a bomb had been planted in the shopping center was “almost excluded.”
Later on Monday authorities said that the list of missing persons rose to 18 and also included a citizen of Iran and a citizen of Russia.
A major fire at Surmalu in April 2021 destroyed several pavilions and warehouses with toys and household goods, but no casualties were reported in that fire that occurred at night.