Families gripped by terror as they escape the threat of ethnic cleansing following the collapse of Nagorno-Karabakh are facing shortages of water and fuel during their urgent two-day trek to Armenia, Britain's The Independent reports.
“More than 90,000 Karabakh Armenians – around three-quarters of the total population – have now left their homes in the breakaway enclave, which is internationally recognised as being part of Azerbaijan.
The United Nations fears the fall of the region could mean there will eventually be no Armenians left in Nagorno-Karabakh, prompting concerns of ethnic cleansing. It is the largest exodus of people in the South Caucasus since the collapse of the Soviet Union.
Fearing reprisals, as Baku’s forces moved into the main cities and arrested Armenian officials, hungry and scared families packed what few belongings they could into cars and trucks and left their homes for good.
Valeri, 17, fled the village of Kichan, 70km north of the Armenian border with his family and neighbours. In total, they squeezed 35 people into a Ford Transit and made the four-day journey to safety, sitting on top of each other and sleeping in shifts.
“We couldn’t take anything with us because the shelling was too intense as we escaped,” he told The Independent.
They had to hide in a large waste water pipe to escape artillery fire, he said.
In the chaos, families were separated and the poor mobile coverage in the mountainous regions means they are still trying to reconnect.
In the lead-up to Azerbaijan’s operation, Baku had imposed a 10-month blockade on the enclave leading to chronic shortages of food and petrol supplies,” the news agency writes.