GANJA: A missile strike levelled several residential homes in Azerbaijan’s second city of Ganja on Saturday, with one resident telling AFP he saw seven victims pulled out of the rubble.
The strike, which came only hours after the Nagorno-Karabakh capital Stepanakert underwent a shelling attack, marked a new escalation in the deadly conflict between ethnic Armenians and Azerbaijanis over the separatist region.
An AFP team saw a square block of buildings turned to rubble in Ganja.
Dozens of rescuers searched for survivors with their bare hands in the dark.
The missile struck around 3:00 am (5:00 am Malaysian Time).
The rescuers called for silence so that they could detect sounds of survivors, and pulled out passports, unopened delivery packages, and items of clothing from the debris.
One resident said the residential block was home to more than 20 people.
Another said he saw a small child, two women and four men pulled from the rubble, although their state was not immediately clear.
“One woman was missing her feet. Someone else was missing an arm at the elbow,“ said Elmir Shirinzaday, 26.
An AFP team in the nearby city of Mingecevir, an hour’s drive north of Ganja, heard the impact of a huge blast that shook buildings there at around the same time.
Mingecevir is protected by a missile defence system because it is home to a strategic dam, and it was not immediately clear if the missiles were destroyed in the air or had made impact. — AFP