A massive fire that erupted in a chemical factory in Yerevan earlier this week may have been caused by negligence, Minister for Emergency Situations Davit Tonoyan said on Thursday.
“I cannot make evaluations now because an investigation is underway,” Tonoyan told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am). “But I won’t rule out a human factor, namely negligence.”
The fire raged for two days at the Nairit plant’s storage containers filled with combustible chemical waste. Some officials suggested that it was caused by an explosion.
Law-enforcement authorities have still not opened a criminal case, let alone charged anyone, in connection with the fire. Armenia’s Investigative Committee said on Thursday that it has only just begun examining relevant information submitted by the Ministry for Emergency Situations. The latter was due to conduct forensic tests at Nairit.
Nairit, which employed thousands of people in Soviet times, has largely stood idle for the last few years. Gagik Avetisian, a former manager of its synthetic rubber production unit, believes that sweeping staff cuts made it practically impossible to prevent major accidents from happing in the sprawling plant.
“They lay off people and when an accident happens later on they say that they solved everything,” said Avetisian. “They did not. If they did, there would be at least 500, not 200, people working on those 120 hectares of land [occupied by Nairit.]”
Nairit has had only 250 or so employees since 1,700 of its remaining workers were laid off in January 2016. In November, a Yerevan court declared the company bankrupt because of its failure to pay electricity bills totaling $2.6 million.