YEREVAN (Combined Sources)—Armenian President Serzh Sarkisian visited the Nairit chemical factory in Yerevan on Thursday as the death toll from at least two explosions that ripped through it the previous evening rose to four.
All of the victims, aged between 50 and 38, were factory employees. A Nairit spokeswoman said the blasts, which sent thick black smoke rising into the sky for several hours, also seriously injured eight other people, including four firefighters. Armenia’s Rescue Service said late Wednesday that 17 emergency workers were treated for burns and intoxication.
“Thank God, the death toll was not higher,” Sarkisian told journalists after inspecting the site of the accident in a southern Yerevan suburb with other top government officials. “Unfortunately, this disaster was accompanied by casualties,” he said. “I express my condolences to the victims’ families.”
“I ordered an investigation yesterday,” added Sarkisian. “We need to find out the causes to prevent [more such accidents] in the future.
“I think that we must learn lessons. I think that this disaster must be another wake-up call to the managers and owners of other industrial enterprises.”
The Armenian police launched a criminal investigation into the accident, the precise causes of which are not yet known. Anush Harutiunian, the Nairit spokeswoman, told RFE/RL that the company management formed late Wednesday a special commission that will conduct a separate inquiry.
“The accident did not cause serious ecological problems,” said Harutiunian. “There have been no dangerous emissions.” Production operations at Nairit facilities unaffected by the deadly blasts are continuing, she added.
Government officials gave similar assurances. “In terms of emissions, there are no and, I’m sure, there will be dangers involved,” said Health Minister Harutiun Kushkian.
“We haven’t registered a significant pollution of the environment,” said Marzpet Kamalian, a senior official from the Environment Ministry. “Claims that the accident may have contaminated drinking water are not true.”
An RFE/RL correspondent saw an official from the sanitary service of Yerevan’s southern Shengavit try to enter the Nairit premises and take water samples there. The official, Hrant Zarelian, was turned away by security guards. “They told me to go away because they are very busy and I should come on Monday,” he said
Russia on Friday said it was ready to provide assistance to Armenia in the aftermath of the blast, Russian Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Ivanov said at a meeting with Armenian Prime Minister Tigran Sargsyan the same day.
Ivanov expressed deep condolences for what he described as a tragedy at the chemical plant. “If you need our help or support we are ready to provide it,” he said.
Nairit is one of the leading chemical enterprises in the Republic of Armenia that specializes in chloroprene rubbers and latexes production. Since 1940 the enterprise has been producing chloroprene rubber under Nairit trade. In Soviet times, it was one of the few countries in the Soviet Union that produced the highly unique rubber, used in the Soviet Military Industrial complex.
Along with polychloroprene production, the company has capacities to produce various chemical products, including carboxylic acids, caustic soda, sodium hypochlorite, carbinol syrup, lacquer- ethynol etc.
In 2005 NAirit manufactured 7,676 tons of rubber and 6,000 tons of caustic sodium. Plant director Ruben Saghatelian said the plant sold its products last year to Italy, Poland, Iran, Span and some of CIS countries.