GYUMRI, Armenia (RFE/RL)–More than a thousand families in Armenia’s second largest city of Gyumri received new apartments on Friday over two decades after a powerful earthquake that destroyed their homes.
The Armenian government has funded the construction of their apartment blocks as part of a nearly $200 million plan to complete the protracted reconstruction of the country’s northern regions still reeling from the December 1988 quake that killed some 25,000 people and made hundreds of thousands of others homeless.
According to government data, more than 7,000 local families still live in shacks and other temporary shelters. The government has pledged to provide some 5,300 of them with new and adequate housing by 2013.
In Gyumri alone, the government is to build a total of just over 3,000 apartments. Urban Development Minister Vartan Vartanian assured local residents on Friday that the ongoing construction of the remaining 2,000 or new homes will be complete by the end of next year.
Vartanian spoke during the official inauguration of the 1,056 new apartments attended by President Serzh Sarkisian. The ceremony was originally due to take place last December.
It was delayed after Sarkisian visited the residential complex located in a Gyumri suburb and strongly criticized the quality of the construction work done by a private company. The company, called Glendale Hills, was given until mid-May to eliminate all shortcomings mainly related to the apartments’ interior design and equipment.