Azerbaijan Armory Explosion Victims Claim No Government Help

“If this had happened because of my negligence, I wouldn’t expect or demand anything from the government. But it is the government’s fault and the government has to help.”

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Residents who were ducking exploding missiles when fire broke out at a huge Azerbaijan military armory say the government’s claims of providing aid are untrue.

On August 27, a fire of still unannounced origin produced multiple explosions inside and outside the armory located near Gilazi village, 70 kilometers northwest of the capital Baku.

The armory medical center and soldier dormitory were reportedly destroyed. No deaths were reported, perhaps because the explosion happened on a Sunday. The Ministry of Health reported six injuries that required hospitalization.

According to official government information, residents of the four nearest villages – Sitalchay, Gilazi, Mammadhasan and Shuraabad – were evacuated to temporary tents organized by the Azerbaijani Ministry of Emergency Situations. Some residents say that is untrue, and that two tents set up 10 kilometers from the armory were not nearly enough.

Gilazi, located about five kilometers from the armory, is the village damaged most by the explosion. One of the poorer settlements in Azerbaijan, the houses are all very old, fences are falling apart, and roads are in awful condition.

“I heard a very loud explosion,” said villager Bunyatali Bunyatov. “At first, I thought it was military training. Then I realized the explosions were getting closer and closer to the village.

“I immediately went to the railway line. My son works at the armory, but he was at home when I called him. So I started home. Along the way it seemed like our village was under bomb attack. Some missiles fell to the ground in front of my eyes.”

The Soviet-era armory is mostly used for storing tanks, missiles and artillery equipment. Missiles, some of which exploded, flew as far as 10 kilometers from the armory. Some missiles flew into the Caspian Sea. According to military personnel, missiles are usually stored and pointed in the direction of the Caspian Sea to protect the civilian population.

Aghabaji Ibrahimova’s house was damaged by falling missiles. Exterior walls are cracked and separating, and an internal supporting wall is severely bent.

She says her house was shaking: “One missile fell on our neighbor Rahim’s house. At that moment I thought this house would fall on my head. Everyone was running away from the village.

“I didn’t leave. I’ve already lived my life. My son has a car and I just told him to take his family and leave.” Her son later returned and tried to get her to leave her house, but she wouldn’t.

“When we saw that nobody would take care of us, we hired a repairman and we worked on the house a little bit,” she said. “But I should not have to do this. We told the officials from the Emergency Situations Ministry who examined the damaged houses that there are big cracks in the walls. In response we only hear: ‘Everyone comes and asks us to repair their house, even if only one stone drops somewhere.’ ”

Rafin Aghayev’s house was also severely damaged.

“It was about 9 a.m. We were sitting in the courtyard and suddenly we heard the explosion. At first we thought it was military training. Then we saw that houses were shaking. I was getting in my car to look when I saw that the sky was filled with smoke. A kid ran by and said an explosion occurred in the armory, and that we should run away.

“One of my brothers is a soldier. I called him, and he told me to leave the village. I took my family and we drove away. I left my kids at the nearest police station and returned with my mother. A missile fell right in front of my car. I was scared. I couldn’t find my father. Finally, someone called and said my father was near that police station. When I went to find him, my brother called and said my courtyard was on fire.”

According to Aghayev, the residents took their families to safer villages where relatives could take care of them, and then returned to their homes to retrieve what they most needed. “But police prevented us from getting into the village. They said they were patrolling the village. But there were no patrols.”

Aghayev eventually managed to get into the village, but he and his neighbors couldn’t put out the fires. Everyone was carrying water and trying,” he said. “Only one fire engine came, and it didn’t have water.”

Aghayev claims that fire destroyed over $1,700 worth of hay bales stacked on his property.  “I had more than 1,000 bales,” he said. I took a $1,200 loan from Kapital bank to buy them. I’ve already paid two months of installments on the loan. I not only don’t get any compensation, they don’t even help me to stop repaying the bank loan for awhile. I paid myself to haul the burned hay away.

“If this had happened because of my negligence, I wouldn’t expect or demand anything from the government. But it is the government’s fault and the government has to help. One official told me if I got compensation for even half of the hay, I should thank God and just go away.”

In addition to the burned hay, his stable roof was damaged. The explosions cracked  walls on the house, and the fire melted some plastic windows.

Aghayev says one official from an emergency team set up by the government came and took some information. He says he went to regional government deputy chief’s office to ask about compensation, but that he was kicked out of the office and had his job threatened.

“I work as a teacher,” Aghayev said. “The deputy told me my school director will talk to me if I demand my rights.”

Aghayev also says there was no government evacuation. “Just for show, they set up two tents near a police post five kilometers away,” he said. “My relatives helped me. Otherwise my family would have had no food and water.”

Jamil Shahkaramov’s house was also damaged. One missile came through the ceiling and destroyed two walls. Another unexploded missile buried itself two meters deep just behind the house. Azerbaijan National Agency for Mine Action (ANAMA) specialists dug that missile out. “The officials came and took information, but did not promise whether they will repair the house or not,” Shahkaramov said.  “One of the ANAMA workers said that we should rename our village to ‘Village of Miracles’ because no one was injured.

“The missile came down into the house just after the kids and I left. Can you imagine?”

More than 15 houses in Gilazi are visibly damaged. Grazing land in four other villages burned, and villagers are already worried about what cattle will eat in the winter.

Missiles also dropped near two other villages. Sitalchay resident Jamil Hasanov says that during the explosion all people were in a panic.

“Then when we watched TV that evening we were shocked,” Hasanov said. “They were saying that the population of the nearest villages were evacuated, and that there were temporary tents for people. Man, this is a huge lie! No one even gave us a glass of water. We saw the opposite. Police were ordering us to move from one place to another, and then back again.”

According to Vugar Novruzov, a press spokesman for the Ministry of Emergency Situations: “those who appealed for help, they were provided with everything. We made an official announcement about the tents and that people could ask to use them.  I don’t know why the residents didn’t ask.”

Regarding possible compensation, Novruzov there will be no information until the investigation is completed.

Ana səhifəNewsAzerbaijan Armory Explosion Victims Claim No Government Help