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Balloon explosion in Armenia injures 144

May 5, 2012 12:00:00 AM PDT
An explosion at a political campaign rally in Armenia on Friday injured at least 144 people, authorities said. The nation's Emergencies Ministry said 104 of those victims suffered burns and had to be hospitalized.

The explosion in Yerevan stemmed from a cluster of balloons that blew up over the event.

Officials said they suspect the balloons were filled with explosive hydrogen, instead of helium, and they ignited when someone lit a cigarette nearby.

According to reports, none of the injuries appear to be life threatening.

The balloons were supposed to be flown at a Republican Party rally that drew tens of thousands ahead of Sunday's parliamentary vote 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.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.