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An explosion in Nagorno-Karabakh killed more than 20 people, while thousands flee to Armenia

An explosion at a fuel depot in Nagorno-Karabakh on Monday killed at least 20 people and injured 300, local Armenian authorities said.

A powerful explosion at a fuel warehouse located near the Stepanakert-Askeran highway occurred the night before while a large number of civilians from Nagorno-Karabakh were there, wanting to leave for Armenia. As the NKR authorities still say, gasoline was distributed from the warehouse to refugees. The cause of the explosion has not been established, and no official statements have been made yet.

Dozens of people are “still in a critical condition” following the incident, which has displaced thousands of people from the region. Nagorno-Karabakh authorities say most of the wounded are in a “serious or extremely serious” condition. The region’s human rights ombudsman Gegham Stepanyan, calling for air ambulances to be allowed to land, said:

The medical capacities [of Nagorno-Karabakh] are not enough.

The incident occurred on the eve of a meeting between representatives of Baku and Yerevan in Brussels. The meeting will be held in the format of negotiations on the fact that thousands of refugees are fleeing after Azerbaijan’s lightning seizure of the enclave, where the majority of the population is ethnic Armenian.

Armenian authorities said on Tuesday that the number of refugees from Nagorno-Karabakh had already surpassed 13,000 on Sunday. A large number of Armenians stayed in the border town of Goris. Anabel Ghulasyan, 41, from the village of Rev, known as Shalva in Azeri, arrived in Goris with her family by minibus, carrying her belongings in bags. She said:

We lived through terrible days.

Many refugees slept in their cars laden with luggage and stood in endless queues outside phone shops on Tuesday to buy sim cards.

Last week, the Azerbaijani authorities conducted a military operation on the territory of Nagorno-Karabakh. As a result, the region’s military forces decided to disarm. Tuesday’s meeting in Brussels will be the first such meeting since the offensive, but the leaders of both countries are scheduled to meet next month.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan visited the exclave on Monday to meet with his Azerbaijani counterpart Ilham Aliyev. Erdogan said Azerbaijan’s quick military victory had opened a “window of opportunity” for normalising relations.

Several days after the fighting, the first refugees arrived in Armenia on Sunday and 6,650 people have so far entered, Yerevan said on Monday. Simon Mordue, chief diplomatic adviser to European Council President Charles Michel, will chair Tuesday’s talks between Azerbaijan and Armenia. Azerbaijan and Armenia, as well as EU representatives France and Germany, will be represented by their national security advisers.

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