By Astghik Bedevian
Police and emergency workers were investigating on Friday a powerful explosion that killed one person, injured four others and destroyed five apartments in a residential building in Yerevan the previous evening.
The victim, a 42-year-old man, lived on the second floor of a nine-story building in the city’s western Ajapnyak district, as did the people rushed to hospital after the incident. Two of them were said to be in a critical condition on Friday.
The precise cause and other circumstances of the blast were still not known as of late afternoon. Officials said only that it was caused by a natural gas leak.
“There was a gas leak, there is no question about that,” Mushegh Babayan, a senior police officer leading the investigation, told RFE/RL at the scene.
Babayan said investigators, joined by gas utility workers, have yet to determine what caused the leak and identify the apartment where the resulting explosion took place. “A criminal investigation is underway,” he said. “We are doing lots of forensic tests and other work. At this point it’s too early to say anything more concrete.”
Local residents said the blast occurred shortly after the resumption of gas deliveries to their building. The ArmRosGazprom (ARG) national gas distributor cut off supplies to the building and many other parts of Yerevan on Monday, citing technical reasons.
“They cut off gas on Monday and were supposed to restore it yesterday,” said Albert Poghosian, a middle-aged man who lives on the sixth floor of the damaged apartment block. “But there were no warnings about the resumption of supplies. They visited other buildings and told residents to be careful, but no such thing happened in our building.”
ARG declined to immediately comment on the incident.