A massive explosion at a fuel depot in Nagorno-Karabakh has killed at least 20 people and injured hundreds more, adding to the humanitarian crisis in the region. The blast occurred on Monday evening near the city of Stepanakert, where thousands of ethnic Armenians have been fleeing after Azerbaijan’s military takeover last week.
The cause of the explosion is still unknown, but local Armenian authorities said that 290 people were admitted to hospitals, with dozens of them in critical condition. Some of the victims were reportedly queuing up for fuel, which has been scarce due to the 10-month blockade by Azerbaijan. The blast also damaged nearby buildings and vehicles.
The explosion came as the Armenian government said that more than 13,000 Nagorno-Karabakh residents had crossed into Armenia since Azerbaijan’s lightning offensive last week, which ended three decades of separatist rule in the region. Azerbaijan has claimed full control of Nagorno-Karabakh and said it wants to reintegrate the ethnic Armenians as equal citizens. However, many local residents fear reprisals and ethnic cleansing by the Azerbaijani forces.