STEPANAKERT — Azerbaijan allowed Armenian doctors on Tuesday to visit Nagorno-Karabakh to treat and evacuate scores of people injured in Monday’s powerful explosion at a fuel depot outside Stepanakert.
Karabakh authorities said at least 20 people were killed and over 270 others seriously injured and hospitalized as a result of the explosion. They appealed for urgent medical aid from Armenia, saying that Stepanakert’s two main hospitals cannot to provide adequate care to all victims due to their limited capacity and lack of medication.
A team of Armenian doctors flew to Stepanakert early in the morning and evacuated the first injured Karabakh Armenians by helicopter hours later. They were transported to hospitals in Yerevan. Three more such flights were carried out in the following hours.
At least 14 patients were admitted to the Yerevan-based National Center for Burns and Dermatology in the afternoon. An ambulance driver there said more of them are on their way to the hospital.
“The team of doctors transported by helicopter from Armenia to Stepanakert with necessary medicines and medical supplies are currently in the medical institutions of the [Karabakh] republic and together with local doctors are providing the necessary medical assistance to all the victims,” read a statement released by Karabakh health authorities.
Early in the afternoon a convoy of Armenian ambulances escorted by representatives of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) left Armenia for Karabakh through the Lachin corridor controlled by Azerbaijani forces. A senior Azerbaijani official said, meanwhile, that Baku is ready to open a “medical corridor” to Karabakh for the ICRC.
The precise cause of the blast remained unknown. An official in Stepanakert, Davit Babayan, told RFE/RL’s Armenian Service that the authorities there believe it was most probably an accident caused by “negligence.” He said they are hardly in a position to conduct an investigation given the ongoing exodus of Karabakh’s population to Armenia and Azerbaijan’s takeover of the region.
The blast occurred amid a mass exodus of Karabakh’s population that followed last week’s Azerbaijani military offensive.
Videos posted on social media showed a long line of cars parked near the depot that received large quantities of gasoline over the weekend for the first since Baku blocked traffic through the Lachin corridor last December. Their owners were apparently waiting to fuel up and drive to Armenia along with their families. Thousands of other Karabakh Armenians fled to Armenia earlier on Monday.