Armenia: Rally Balloons Explode

Scores of people were hurt in Yerevan, the capital, on Friday when gas-filled balloons exploded in a huge ball of flames at a campaign rally for Armenia’s Republican Party ahead of parliamentary elections on Sunday. More than 60 people, including children, were hospitalized after the explosion, and photographs showed bystanders fleeing as flames shot up in a crowded square. The Emergencies Ministry said 144 people had been injured; some were burned and others were hurt during the panic after the explosion. No deaths were reported. Nikolai Grigoryan, the deputy director of Armenia’s rescue service, told the Novosti Armenia news agency that the balloons had been filled with helium and were ignited by a bystander’s cigarette. However, helium is an inert gas that does not burn.

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