Hungry and exhausted ethnic Armenian families are fleeing their homes in Nagorno-Karabakh after Azerbaijan defeated separatist forces in the breakaway region last week.
The ethnic Armenians of Nagorno-Karabakh – part of Azerbaijan that had been beyond Baku’s control since the dissolution of the Soviet Union – began fleeing into Armenia this week after separatist forces were routed in a lightning operation by Azerbaijan’s military.
At least 19,000 of the 120,000 ethnic Armenians who call Nagorno-Karabakh home have already crossed into Armenia, Deputy Prime Minister Tigran Khachatryan was quoted by Russia’s TASS news agency as saying, with hundreds of cars and buses crammed with belongings snaking down the mountain road out of Azerbaijan.
Some fled packed into the back of open-topped trucks, others on tractors. Grandmother of four Narine Shakaryan arrived in her son-in-law’s old car with six people packed inside. The 77km (48-mile) drive had taken 24 hours, she said. They had eaten no food.
As Armenians rushed to leave the Karabakh capital, known as Stepanakert by Armenia and Khankendi by Azerbaijan, fuel stations were overwhelmed by panic buying. The authorities there said at least 20 people were killed and 290 injured in a massive blaze when a fuel storage facility blew up on Monday.