YEREVAN, Armenia (AP) — A strong explosion at a fireworks storage area tore through a popular market in Armenia’s capital on Sunday, killing at least one person, injuring 36 others and setting off a large fire.
More than three hours after the early afternoon blast at the Surmalu market, firemen labored to put out the blaze that sent a towering column of smoke over the center of Yerevan. Rescue workers and volunteers in civilian clothes searched for victims who might be trapped under slabs of concrete and twisted metal.
An Associated Press reporter at the scene saw two people pulled from the rubble — a woman with an injured leg and a young man who appeared to be unconscious. Emergencies Minister Armen Pambukhchyan said two sisters were pulled alive from the rubble.
Fireworks continued to explode as the firemen and rescuers worked amid thick smoke.
The market, about two kilometers (over a mile) south of city center, is popular for its low prices and variety of goods.
There was no immediate word on what caused the fireworks to ignite.
A spokesman for the emergency services ministry, Aik Kostanyan, said the casualty toll stood at one person 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 the hospital; 11 of them are minors.