At least two women and one man have died with 61 more wounded after an explosion tore through the Surmalu Market in Yerevan on Sunday. Officials have warned that the number of casualties may rise as rescue workers continue to search the rubble for survivors.
Armenian Emergencies Minister Armen Pambukhchyan told RFE/RL that rescue operations would continue throughout the night.
The minister said the fires had been mostly extinguished, but urged the public to stay clear of the area as there was still a danger of buildings collapsing.
According to the Ministry of Emergencies, relatives of 19 people had contacted them to report that they were unable to reach their loved ones, including a pregnant woman and her five-year-old child.
According to the ministry, the blast occurred in a building in which fireworks were being stored. Small explosions at around noon on Sunday were followed by larger ones as firefighters battled the blaze.
— Gegham Vardanyan (@reporterarm) August 14, 2022
The cause of the initial explosion is still unknown, with law enforcement agencies launching an investigation for possible violations of safety regulations.
Following the news of the explosion, the National Centre for Crisis Management received information about explosives planted in all metro stations, all shopping centres, zoos, as well as crucial military and civilian facilities, leading to evacuations throughout the city.
The authorities later announced that the threats were a hoax.