1 killed and 36 injured in fireworks explosion in Yerevan market

YEREVAN, Armenia (AFP) – A powerful explosion ripped through a fireworks storage area at a popular market in the Armenian capital on Sunday, killing at least one person, injuring 36 others and setting off a large fire.

More than three hours after the explosion, which occurred in the early afternoon in Surmalo market, firefighters worked to put out the blaze, which sent a plume of smoke over central Yerevan. Rescue workers and volunteers in civilian clothes searched for victims who might have been trapped under slabs of concrete and twisted metal.

An Associated Press reporter at the scene saw two people being pulled out of the rubble – a woman with a leg injury and a young man who appeared unconscious. Emergencies Minister Armen Bambukhshian said two sisters had been pulled alive from under the rubble.

Fireworks continued to explode as firefighters and rescuers worked through thick smoke.

The market, about two kilometers (more than a mile) south of the city center, is known for its low prices and variety of goods.

There was no immediate word on the cause of the fireworks.

A spokesman for the Ministry of Emergency Services, Ike Kostanian, said the death toll was one person was killed and 36 injured, but it was not clear if anyone remained under the rubble. The Health Ministry said 26 people had been taken to hospital. 11 of them are minors.

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