Explosion in the “Surmalu” shopping center in Yerevan. jamnews

Explosion at the “Surmalu” shopping center in Yerevan.

The fire at Surmalu shopping center in Yerevan has not yet been extinguished. The mall caught fire on August 14 after a powerful explosion in which seven people died and more than 60 were taken to hospital with various injuries. Twenty people are missing.

The fire is believed to have originated in a pyrotechnic warehouse. Breaches of fire safety rules were filed against Surmalu a year and a half ago, but were never acted upon. The competent authority limited itself to imposing a fine.

Armenians wonder if what happened is the result of negligence or deliberate crime. Some netizens called the incident “sabotage” or even an “act of terrorism”. In order “to avoid unnecessary panic among the population”, the country’s national security service called on citizens and the media to “refrain from publishing unspecified information and comments regarding the threat of terrorist activities. in Armenia”.

Full details of the incident at the mall and the comments of Armenians on social networks.

Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan arrived at the scene on the morning of August 15. He was accompanied and given explanations by the mayor of Yerevan, the Minister of Emergency Situations and the director of the rescue service of the Ministry of Emergency Situations.

The Foreign Ministries of Georgia and Russia, the American and Chinese Embassies, as well as the Special Representative of Turkey for the Normalization of Armenian-Turkish Relations, Serdar Kilich, expressed their condolences to the Armenian authorities. Russian President Vladimir Putin also sent a condolence telegram to the Armenian Prime Minister.

Photo credit: “Photolure”

The fire cannot be extinguished; risk of collapse

So far, it has been impossible to completely extinguish the fire in the three-storey building where the warehouses of the Surmalu shopping center were located. This is the second day that the Ministry of Emergency Situations has worked overtime. Two hundred professionals take part in search and rescue operations. They are joined by 150 volunteers.

Although the building has partially collapsed, the risk of another collapse remains. Emergency Situations Minister Armen Pambukhchyan commented to reporters:

“It’s too early to talk about the causes, there needs to be a real investigation,” he said.

The commission of inquiry has already opened a criminal case under two articles:

  • violation of the rules for the storage of flammable substances, which negligently caused the death of a person,
  • violation of fire safety rules, resulting in the death of a person due to negligence.

According to adviser to the Attorney General Gor Abrahamyan, all possible versions will be checked.

The Ministry of Emergencies advises that there is no longer any danger of an explosion, although there is a possibility of igniting the remaining materials.

“There’s no way to approach where the fire started, and there’s a lot of combustible material, so the fire hasn’t been put out yet. So until the fire is localized, [firefighters] are working in six directions,” said the representative of the Ministry of Emergencies, Lt. Col. Gary Armaghanyan.

Iranian citizen among the missing

The Ministry of Emergency Situations has so far announced the names of six citizens who died in the blast. At 2 p.m. on August 15, the number of missing was eighteen. This list includes the names of those who were announced by their relatives by calling the 911 hotline.

According to the Ministry of Emergency Situations, there is also an Iranian citizen on the missing list.

It is not known how many are left under the rubble.

Firefighting and search and rescue operations continue.

Among the victims are a pregnant woman and a child

A total of 61 victims were brought to area hospitals. According to the Ministry of Health, thirteen of them are in the emergency room. Among them are a child and a pregnant woman; their condition is stable.

Yesterday the department reported that around 10 children were taken to hospital after the blast. They received first aid and got out.

The re-inspection in the mall was not carried out

The Town Planning, Fire and Technical Safety Inspectorate carried out an inspection in the Surmalu shopping center a year and a half ago. Twenty breaches of fire safety rules were recorded. The mall paid a fine. However, the inspection did not follow up on this “due to arrears”.

In April last year, a fire of the same magnitude broke out in the central building of Surmalu Mall; about 2,000 square meters caught fire. Stalls of toys and household items burned.

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False alarms parallel to firefighting

On August 14, when rescue work in the shopping center had just started, the Ministry of Emergency Situations received false calls about the planting of explosive devices in different parts of Yerevan. Metro stations, important military and civilian installations, shopping malls, a zoo, the parliament building and the church of Grigor Lusavorich were named.

The Yerevan metro was closed for several hours as passengers were evacuated from stations.

But a few hours later, a message was received from the Ministry of Emergency Situations that the subway was operational again and no explosive device had been found anywhere.

Comments on social networks

“What happened at Surmalu Mall is officially presented as an explosion. But is it? Or is it sabotage? The fundamental doubt about the causes of the explosion will remain, because I do not trust the Armenian law enforcement.

“In all states and other places: subways, malls, malls, etc., it is necessary to install x-ray machines, to install guards with dogs. People will feel safe. And this is certainly not that expensive.Even the poorest country can afford such a luxury.

“If this turns out to be a diversion, then we are entering more difficult times for our state, where the same misfortune can be repeated in any crowded place, in every institution at any time. And if it is confirmed that this disaster was the result of a fire, this should not console us, because in this case, too, the safety regulations imposed by the state itself were not observed.

“I believe, I insist, I demand that fireworks be permitted only and exclusively on public holidays and only under the control of the state. With the exception of the importation of pyrotechnics for such occasions, all other cases should be equated with the illegal importation of arms and ammunition and appropriate penalties should be imposed.

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Explosion at the “Surmalu” shopping center in Yerevan.