Let’s recall year 1988 and the Spitak Earthquake which happened that year in Armenia. The point is that the buidings they were constructing during the ‘stagnation’ era of Leonid Brezhnev were supposed to be quakeproof but in fact support structures of apartments and other buildings were very poor. So when the earthquake happened, at least 25 thousand people died in ruins.
The earthquake hit 40 % of the territory of Armenia, densely populated region with 1 million people. 21 towns and 342 villages were destructed, 514 thousand people were left without shelter, 20 thousand people were injured and 12500 people were hospitalized. Number of victims was about 25 thousand.
Each year on December, 7th, Armenian people remeber those who died in the earthquake.
The city of Spitak was almost completely destroyed.
Leninakan located 80 kilometers away from the epicenter, suffered great losses too.
Nine-storey buildings collapsed during the earthquake.
From an eyewitness account, “I was a relief worker and this is what I can tell you 20 years since the tragic event: There was a serious shortage in tents, bulldozers, excavators, hoisting jacks, breathers… Although we had enough water to drink, hard hats and… coffins. There were plenty of coffins. You could take them for free and as many as you wanted.
It was very painful to see what looters did to the dead people. If a cover slipped down from a body, you could see broken fingers stuck out at different angles… Looters never missed an opportunity to steel a golden ring.
There were a lot of armed military men and no trained dogs or devices which could detect a noise coming from under the ruins… There was alcohol. A lot of alcohol.
We received humanitarian aid from western countries. Military men were to guard it, government was to distribute it and bandits were to take it away.
I saw Austrian rescuers who carried their trained dogs in their hands.
There was no ‘silence hours’ to try to hear someone calling for help because they needed special devices. However, sometimes we heard voices even without them.
When everything was over, nobody took care about our transportation back and each of us purchased tickets by his own. We’ve never called or written to each other since then. I’m glad that I’ve been there.”
According to an earthquake expert, the Spitak Earthquake was the most powerful and destructive in the history of the Caucasus.
The entire city of Spitak was destroyed, and there was partial damage to the nearby cities of Gyumri (then called Leninakan) and Vanadzor (then Kirovakan). The tremor also caused damage to many surrounding villages. The Metsamor Nuclear Power Plant was also temporarily closed down because of the earthquake.
Despite the fact the earthquake was only of a moderate size, with a magnitude of 6.9, there were various factors contributing to the large destruction that followed. These included the time of day, freezing winter temperatures, poor soil conditions and inadequate building construction.
The main reasons of the losses are various. Among them are as follows:
1. The seismic risk of the territory of Armenia was underestimated. The intensity of 1988 earthquake was assessed in Spitak 10, in Gyumri and Stephanavan 9 and in Vanadzor 8-9 value on MSK-64 intensity scale.
2. The special governmental committee studying disaster subsequences found out that definite mistakes in construction designing were made.
3. The quality of construction was inadequate. The construction technologies were violated and the materials didn’t correspond to the standards.
4. Governmental bodies weren’t able to control the situation in time and arrange the rescue works. Many structures weren’t ready to resist the disaster.
Overwieving the main reasons of great losses, there is a need to raise public awareness. It is necessary to learn from the past tragedy as the losses people suffered are irretrivable.