YEREVAN (Armen Press–Noyan Tapan–NKR News)–On December 7 a requiem ceremony was held–at the Cathedral of the Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin–before the Holy Altar of Descend–in memory of over 25,000 victims–who passed away as a result of the earthquake on December 7–1998. His Eminence Abp. Housik Santourian presided over the ceremony.
Twelve years ago the earthquake took away thousands of live. As Santourian mentioned–so long as the conception "disaster zone" exists–the wounds caused by the disaster will not be healed.
That same day President Robert Kocharian–accompanied by Deputy Parliament Speaker Tigran Torosian–Territorial and Town-Planning Minister Leonid Hakobian and other senior officials paid a visit to Gyumri. At exactly 11:43 a.m. (the time when the earthquake occurred) President Kocharian visited the Gyumri Cemetery and laid a wreath on the khachkar (cross stone) commemorating the unknown victims of the earthquake.
Kocharian also took part in the inauguration ceremony of a newly-restored block of flats in the city. The apartmen’s have been rebuilt through funds raised from privatization programs and the All-Armenian Hayastan Fund. Governor Felix Pirumian of the Shirak province stated an additional one thousand families will soon receive new apartmen’s. President Kocharian also participated in a tree-planting ceremony in the building’s courtyard. Senior officials later attended the opening ceremony of a new school which will accommodate five hundred students. The school was built by funds provided by the government.
A commemoration was also held at the Memorial Complex in Stepanakert where tens of thousands honored the memory the earthquake victims. NKR President Arkady Ghoukasian and numerous senior officials laid flowers on the monument in their memory.
Another ceremony–attended by Armenian Parliament Speaker Armen Khachatrian and Armenian ambassador to Russian Suren Sahakian–was held at the Armenian Surb Haroutiun Church in Moscow.
Prime Minister Andranik Markarian’s statement read as follows: "The 1988 Spitak Earthquake that claimed the lives of more than 25,000 people was one of the most devastating ordeals our nation ever had to go through. The pain of losses and huge destruction is still fresh in our hearts. Though more than a decade has passed since the earthquake–we still have the disaster zone where there are numerous problems such as unemployment–and poor social-economic conditions. The rehabilitation of the disaster zone has become a national priority. State funds are supplemented with donations from the Lincy Foundatio–All-Armenia Fund and other programs. The efficient use of the funds is also of great importance. The government will be resolute on this issue. All our efforts are directed today at the elimination of the "disaster zone" and it is a matter of great honor for both the government and the Armenian people."
The government has drawn up a program to ensure the seismic security of the country’s citizens which is expected to be implemented by the year 2005. The implementation of the program will require close to 20 billion drams–which has already been approved by the government. According to Deputy Head of the Department for Emergencies Enrik Aghalarian–the funds for the program are expected to be obtained not from the state budget–but from international donor organizations.