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Armenian blast death toll rises to 16

The death toll from an explosion at a bustling market in the Armenian capital Yerevan rose to 16, Armenia's emergency situations ministry said on Tuesday.

Rescue workers and volunteers clear debris as they operate on the site of a retail market in the Armenian capital Yerevan on August 14, 2022, after an explosion sparked a fire, killing one person and injuring 20, according to the emergency situations ministry. – The blast, the cause of which was not immediately known, ripped through the “retail market in Surmalu. According to preliminary information it started a fire. There are victims,” the ministry said. (Photo by Karen MINASYAN / AFP)

The death toll from an explosion at a bustling market in the Armenian capital Yerevan rose to 16, Armenia’s emergency situations ministry said on Tuesday.

Sunday’s blast at the Surmalu wholesale market also injured 60 people after it caused a fire and the collapse of a building.

“Sixteen bodies were found during search and rescue efforts,” the ministry said in a statement, adding that 18 people were still missing.

Officials said more than 350 rescuers are at work on the ground.

The cause has not yet been established, but local news reports, citing witnesses, said the explosion went off at a place that stored fireworks.

Local authorities have excluded the possibility that it was a terror attack and prosecutors have already launched a probe into violations “on stocking inflammable goods”, breaches in fire safety standards and the death of people “due to negligence”.

The disaster comes as the country of three million people is still recovering from a 2020 war with Azerbaijan, which ended in a heavy defeat and sparked a political crisis.

Shortly after Sunday’s blast, officials evacuated people from Yerevan metro stations after a bomb threat, but authorities found no explosive device.

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