WATERTOWN — The Artsakh Refugees Aid Program launched by the Tekeyan Cultural Association of the United States and Canada (TCA) already has begun to help forcibly displaced Armenians from Artsakh and continues to raise funds for this purpose.
The Tekeyan Cultural Association has supported Armenia and Artsakh for decades through numerous projects. The Armenians of Artsakh persevered despite a nine-month blockade initiated last December by Azerbaijan, and endured hunger, cold and many hardships to live on their ancestral land of thousands of years. Azerbaijan then on September 19 launched a massive attack, bombing settlements, schools and hospitals.
This final Azerbaijani invasion of the territories of the Artsakh (Nagorno-Karabakh) Republic forced a mass exodus of the population of the latter and led to a humanitarian crisis. For the first time in history this ancient land was emptied of its Armenian population in the course of only a few days. TCA could not remain indifferent to one of the greatest disasters in modern Armenian history.
During the exodus, news spread about another terrible event. On the Stepanakert-Askeran road, at a filling station in Berkadzor near the city of Stepanakert, an explosion took place, followed by a terrible fire. The people of Artsakh, mostly men, had come to get gasoline so that they could escape Azerbaijani persecution. As a result of the explosion and fire, at least 220 people died, and there are still at least 50 people missing without a trace as of October 14, according to Artsakh Internal Affairs Ministry Spokesman Hunan Tadevosyan. The burnt remains of 150 people were extricated from the explosion site for identification in Armenian through DNA testing.
During the two days after the explosion, injured survivors were taken to hospitals in Armenia.
TCA determined as part of its assistance program first of all to help those Artsakh citizens treated at the Yerevan National Center for Burns and Dermatology.