There have been hundreds of casualties following an explosion at a fuel depot in the contested conflict region of Nagorno-Karabakh in the South Caucasus. The office of the human rights commissioner of the internationally unrecognized republic spoke on Monday evening of at least 200 injuries and an unknown number of deaths not far from the regional capital Stepanakert. It was initially unclear what triggered the catastrophe in the Armenian-majority region, which was attacked and defeated by Azerbaijan last week.
Large flames could be seen in photos on social networks. Politician Metakse Akopjan said that at the time of the accident, many people were queuing for gasoline at the camp because they wanted to flee the Azerbaijanis to Armenia in cars.
Of the more than 200 injured, the majority were "severely or extremely seriously" wounded, said the ombudsman for human rights in Nagorno-Karabakh, Gegham Stepanyan, on Monday on the online service X, formerly Twitter. Stepanyan did not provide any information on previously reported fatalities. The Human Rights Office appealed to the international community: There is an urgent need to fly out people, especially seriously injured people, for treatment. “Nagorno-Karabakh’s medical capacity is not sufficient to save people’s lives,” the statement on X said.
The humanitarian situation in Nagorno-Karabakh, which has long been contested between the two feuding ex-Soviet republics of Armenia and Azerbaijan, is already catastrophic. Azerbaijanis have been blocking the only Armenian access road for months, which is why food, medicine and gasoline are in short supply in the region.
Last Tuesday, authoritarian Azerbaijan launched a military operation to conquer Nagorno-Karabakh. Just a day later, the defeated Karabakh Armenians surrendered. According to Armenian sources, more than 200 people died during the brief fighting and more than 400 others were injured. The tens of thousands of Armenian civilians in the region now fear being displaced or oppressed by the new Azerbaijani rulers.