A German surgeon has again arrived in Armenia to operate on young people still suffering from serious burns sustained in the explosion of hundreds of gas balloons during an election campaign rally in Yerevan last year.
The balloons wet up in flames as the ruling Republican Party of Armenia (HHK) rallied supporters in the city’s main Republic Square just days before the May 2012 parliamentary elections. At least 154 people, most of them young HHK members or supporters, were hospitalized.
Eighteen victims suffered particularly serious injuries that required complicated plastic surgeries. They were conducted later in 2012 by Adrien Daigeler, a professor at a plastic surgery clinic of Germany’s Heidelberg University invited by the Armenian government.
Six of them need to undergo repeat surgeries. Daigeler began operating on them on Tuesday at a Yerevan hospital specializing in treatment of burns. A senior doctor there, Hrayr Hakobian, said they have “cosmetic and minor functional problems.”
Lilit Khachatrian, 22, was operated on Tuesday. “My hands were burned, and there was a small growth on my ear,” she told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am) on Wednesday. “They removed it. I had trouble moving one of my hands. They solved that too.”
“The most important thing was moving my hand, which I had trouble doing. I couldn’t use a pen. I hope that the operation was successful,” Khachatrian said.
It is still not clear what caused the shock balloon blasts. Only one person has been prosecuted in connection with them. Serob Bozoyan, a 54-year-old unemployed man who sold the balloons to the HHK, was sentenced to one year in prison last October.
Opposition and civic activists denounced that verdict, saying that the HHK is primarily responsible for the grave accident. The ruling party denies any responsibility, however.