“That tough decision must be made,” said former deputy prime minister Tigran Avinian on Wednesday, speaking to reporters near the site of the tragedy in which dozens of other people were injured on August 14.
Avinian, whom Pashinian’s Civil Contract party plans to nominate as a mayoral candidate in next year’s municipal elections in Yerevan, said that he believed that the use of fireworks in Armenia must be limited to official events organized by state or local government bodies.
“This [tragic incident] is an occasion for us to think about making changes in our culture of celebrating our birthdays, holding baptism and wedding parties when it comes to the use of fireworks,” Avinian said.
Armenian Minister of Emergency Situations Armen Pambukhchian said late on Tuesday that according to preliminary information up to four tons of explosive materials were stored within the premises of the Surmalu market, which is located within just two kilometers from the center of Yerevan.
Earlier the minister said that ignition and fire in a small area likely had caused a powerful explosion in the fireworks warehouse that triggered a massive blaze in the sprawling market. While it is still unclear what exactly caused the explosion, Pambukhchian said Armenia’s authorities “practically ruled out” terrorism.
It took firefighters more than two days to contain the fire. As of Wednesday morning, rescuers were still looking for one missing person inside a three-story building of the warehouse that had partially collapsed as a result of the explosion and fire.
Armenia declared two days of national mourning on August 17-18 for the victims of the explosion.
Avinian, who came to the scene of the tragedy today to lay flowers there in memory of the victims, reminded that the issue of limiting the use of fireworks in Armenia was already discussed by the government in 2021. He said that the issue is likely to be raised in the parliament when lawmakers reconvene after their summer recess in September.
“I hope that for our society, for our city this was some sobering moment,” Avinian said, acknowledging that a possible ban on the private use of fireworks will also concern a large business sector that he said will also need to be “listened to.”
In a Facebook post on August 16 Avinian also stressed that the sale of fireworks and firecrackers should be banned in Armenia. Earlier, on the day after the explosion, pro-government lawmaker Arsen Torosian, who served as Armenia’s health minister in 2018-2021, also made a similar post on Facebook.