GYUMRI, Armenia (RFE/RL)–More than 300 families in Armenia’s northern Lori province received new houses and apartments on Friday over two decades after a powerful earthquake that destroyed their homes.
Nearly half of them reside in Spitak, a small town razed by the December 1988 earthquake that killed some 25,000 people and made hundreds of thousands of others homeless in Lori and neighboring Shirak province. The others are residents of nearby villages still bearing traces of the calamity.
Prime Minister Tigran Sarkisian handed ownership certificates for newly built houses in one of those villages, Sarahart. Speaking at an official ceremony held there, Sarkisian emphasized the fact that last year’s economic crisis did not halt the implementation of a government plan to essentially complete the protracted reconstruction of the earthquake zone.
According to government data, more than 7,000 families in Lori and Shirak lived in shacks and other temporary shelters before the launch of the $250 million construction scheme in 2008. About 5,300 of them are due to receive new housing free of charge by 2013.
In Gyumri, the capital of Shirak which bore the brunt of the earthquake, more than a thousand families moved into newly construct apartments in May. The government has pledged to build another 2,000 apartments by the end of next year.
The waiting list for new housing is shorter in Lori. It includes roughly 100 households in Spitak and 800 others in rural areas.
Some 80 other Spitak families were controversially left out of the scheme on the grounds that they submitted no documentary evidence of property loss in 1988. Urban Development Minister Vartan Vartanian told RFE/RL’s Armenian service that they still have time to produce documents that would make them eligible for new homes.