Hundreds of Armenians injured as balloons explode

Associated Press

YEREVAN, Armenia (AP) — Hundreds of people were injured Friday after clusters of balloons exploded in the central square of the Armenian capital of Yerevan.

The Emergencies Ministry said 104 of them had to be hospitalized with burns after the explosion, which it said was caused by a smoker who lit a cigarette near the balloons.

Health Minister Artyom Pushkian said no one had life-threatening injuries.

The balloons were supposed to be flown at a Republican Party rally that drew tens of thousands in the former Soviet republic. Despite the accident, Armenian President Serge Sarkisian addressed the rally with a speech.

The Republican Party dominates the parliament of this impoverished Caucasus nation that borders Turkey.