Firefighters on August 15 continued to fight a blaze at the Surmalu market in Yerevan triggered by a powerful explosion that caused multiple detonations inside a fireworks warehouse on the location the previous day.

Update: Devastating Fireworks Explosion at Surmalu Market Results in 16 Deaths, 60 Injured

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YEREVAN (Combined Sources) — A devastating explosion at a fireworks storage area at the Surmalu shopping center in Yerevan on Sunday, August 14, at around 1.20 p.m., has resulted in at least 16 deaths so far and 60 injuries. About four people are still missing.

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 two kilometers outside of the city center.

Citizens help rescue workers remove the rubble at the site of a major explosion and fire in the Surmalu shopping center in Yerevan. August 14, 2022.

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. Criminal proceedings have been launched.

Those who died in the explosion include Misak Margaryan, Anahit Mkhitaryan, Gemma Nazaryan, Anahit Khalatyan, Vardan Kocharyan and Gayane Avetisyan.

“A little while ago, the rescuers took out another body from the rubble. As of now, we have six victims. The search and rescue operations are continuing,” says Hayk Kostanyan, press secretary of the Ministry of Emergency Situations.

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“At the moment, firefighting and rescue-and-search operations are ongoing, the fire has not yet been contained, search efforts continue,” the official said.

The devastation at Surmalu market

Videos appeared on Monday showing Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan visiting the scene of the search and rescue operations.

Earlier, a criminal case was instituted over a possible breach of fire-safety regulations that caused human death or other serious 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.”

He noted that some of the firework materials are still in the area, as a result of which fires break out on a regular basis.

“Also, there was a lot of plastic material in the warehouse [where the explosion occurred]; it is constantly burning. It is normal that it may take several days; we are ready for it,” he added.

The minister noted that about 70 rescuers are working at the scene. Seven rescuers had received various injuries, two of them were hospitalized, the others received medical assistance at the scene,” he said.

A major fire at Surmalu in April 2021 destroyed several pavilions and warehouses with toys and household goods.

The Surmalu market after the explosion

Condolences Offered

Russian President Vladimir Putin and officials representing other countries have offered condolences to Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan over a powerful explosion and fire at a Yerevan market that killed at least six people and injured dozens on Sunday.

In a message to Pashinyan over the Surmalu market explosion and fire, Putin, according to the Kremlin, asked the Armenian leader to accept his “deepest condolences” over the loss of life.

“Please convey my sincere words of sympathy and support to the families of the victims and my wishes for a speedy recovery to all those injured,” Putin wrote.

Georgia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs also offered condolences in a Twitter post addressed to its Armenian counterparts.

“News about a massive explosion in Yerevan, Armenia, is shocking. Our condolences to the families and friends of the victims of the tragedy. We wish swift and speedy recovery to all those injured and stand in solidarity with our Armenian friends in this difficult time!” it said.

Foreign embassies in Yerevan, including the embassies of the United States and China, also reportedly expressed condolences regarding the deadly explosion and fire at the Surmalu market.

Earlier, on Sunday, Serdar Kiliç, a Turkish envoy leading the normalization talks with Armenia, also offered condolences to his Armenian counterpart on the market explosion.

(Stories from Civilnet.am, Azatutyun, News.am and Public Radio of Armenia contributed to this report.)

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