Armenia’s Mark 17th Anniversary of Spitak Earthquake

YEREVAN (Armenpress)–In remembrance of the devastating earthquake that struck Armenia in 1988–killing almost 25,000 people–thousands on Wednesday honored those victims by visiting the graves of friends and relatives.

Measuring 6.8 on the Richter Scale–the Spitak Earthquake took place on December 7–1988 at 11:41 local time.

Local infrastructure–particularly schools and hospitals–was badly damaged in the earthquake and caused the massive deathtoll. It has been estimated that if the earthquake had occurred 5 minutes later–when children would have left their schools–many lives would have been spared.

The earthquake destroyed the entire city of Spitak and partially damaged the nearby cities of Gyumri (then called Leninakan) and Vanadzor (then called Kirovakan). The tremor also damaged many surrounding villages.

After the quake–the government let foreign aid workers into Armenia to help with the recovery. This was one of the first instances when rescue and relief workers from other countries were allowed to take part in relief works in the Soviet Union.

President Kocharian paid a visit to Gyumri on Wednesday to mark the anniversary of this tragedy. He laid a wreath at the Monument erected in commemoration of those who lost their lives.

Over the last couple of years–thousands of apartmen’s were built in the earthquake zone–funded by Armenian American billionaire Kirk Kerkorian. But the region is still suffering. In Gyumri alone–there are at least 3,000 families still living in temporary shelters.

This year the government released 2,350 billion drams for the Housing Certificate program for homeless families. Next year’s budget earmarks 875 million drams to continue the program.

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