The damage extended across an area of over 50 miles in diameter, per BBC. On December 6th, 1988, the northern region of Armenia was hit by a magnitude 3.0 earthquake at 3:27 in the afternoon followed by a larger aftershock that measured 5.8 almost five minutes afterward. According to Reuters, in 2008, the President Serzh Sarksyan pledged that rehousing and rebuilding the region would be complete by 2012, but the government keeps claiming delays due to "technical difficulties." With the collapse of the Soviet Union three years later, reconstruction became even more of an arduous task. “On the evening of the 7th, the “Time” program announced a huge earthquake in Armenia… According to The New York Times, most of the medical assistance that was sent for the earthquake, unfortunately, ended up being "of little value. After a brief photo-op with President-elect George Bush Sr. and President Ronald Reagan, Gorbachov cut his trip short and flew back to Moscow. Thirty-two years ago, on December 7, 1988, one of the most terrible tragedies in the modern history of Armenia took place. The U.S. — and the world — responded. Military troops were also dispatched by the Soviets, but since their training was in post-nuclear blast recovery efforts rather than earthquake relief, they were of little practical assistance. “Crush syndrome,” which occurs when damaged tissues release toxins and alter blood chemistry leading to renal failure, is a common cause of death in large earthquakes. Post-earthquake studies have revealed that roughly once every 50 years, Armenia can expect an earthquake exceeding VII on the Medvedev-Sponheuer-Karnik (MSK) scale, which evaluates the severity of ground shaking, somewhat similar to the Modified Mercalli scale, and suggested that building code standards should be improved. “Those of you who answered the appeal for help, who have assisted in the relief effort, and those who flew to the Soviet Union and sifted through the rubble, searching for life against all odds, carried with you a message from America. Any copying, redistribution or retransmission of any of the contents of this service without the expressed written permission of the American Geosciences Institute is expressly prohibited. He learned of the quake via a telegram from British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher describing the situation, conveying sympathy and offering aid. On 7 December 1988, Armenia was hit by a devastating earthquake. Often, it took up to five hours to travel 46 miles in order to reach hospitals in Yerevan. In one elementary school alone, 400 children were killed. Latest earthquakes in or near Armenia past 30 days. Soviet Armenia had three major quakes in the first fifty years of existence in … It arrived too late for emergency medical treatment." When someone is trapped under tremendous weight from an earthquake or building collapse for upwards of four hours, they become susceptible to crush syndrome. Relief didn’t just come from the U.S. India sent a 42-member medical team, France sent 200 rescue workers and doctors, Cuba sent blood donations and Pope John Paul II contributed $100,000. In Armenia, the Arabian plate abuts against the Eurasian (Europe-Asia) plate. The country had no disaster contingency plans and rescue efforts were disorganized, which led to more deaths. Northern Armenia comprises a mountainous plateau interspersed with populated river valleys and is home to a portion of the Caucasus Mountains, which sit along an active seismic belt spanning from the Alps in southern Europe to the Himalayas in Asia. At 11:41 a.m., the earthquake damaged nearly a third of the small country and destroyed the town of Spitak near the epicenter. An Armenian man who was found digging with his fingers and hands was told by a doctor that if he continued to dig that way, he risked amputation. The next day, it became obvious that this small event was a foreshock. Several planes would be circling simultaneously, waiting for permission to land. This mountain system began to form during the Late Triassic, largely from the tectonic collision between the Arabian Plate and the Eurasian Plate. Meanwhile, Gorbachev's government tried to distract people by shifting the blame for the earthquake's destruction onto former leader Leonid Brezhnev rather than address its own shortcomings. In many places, there weren't enough cranes with which to clear the rubble, leaving people to "work with bare hands.". According to Radio Free Europe, a story published in January 1989 about six men being found 35 days after the earthquake, surviving on canned pickles and fruits, ended up being too good to be true. Red Cross flights brought materials from Eastern and Western Europe, and Britain sent firemen and rescue experts as well as two planes with more than 50 tons of food and medical supplies. Despite Cold War tensions, Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, who was in the U.S. on the day of the quake visiting the United Nations and meeting with President Ronald Reagan, asked for humanitarian aid from the United States within days of the event. As a result, there were few seismic hazard studies done in the region. And ten years after the earthquake, almost $8 million in post-quake funds remained frozen in a Moscow bank after the collapse of the Soviet Union. It was a message of peace.”. And with so many of the roads destroyed and blocked by rubble, by the time relief crews finally arrived, they were "too late to save many lives," per VAHS. Rescue efforts underway after earthquake strikes the Soviet republic of Armenia. On December 11th, a Soviet cargo jet crashed as it reached the Leninakan airport, resulting in the deaths of 78 people. It was followed four minutes later by a magnitude-5.9 aftershock; together these quakes caused extensive damage across a 400-square-kilometer area. There was no sign of life. © 2008-2020. “Over the last two weeks, the hearts of the American people have gone out to the people of Armenia as they grappled with the earthquake disaster and its aftermath,” said President Reagan in a Dec. 22 speech in the White House. Along with the collapse of the Trans-Caucasus electrical grid, Armenia was left with little-to-no heat and electricity for 1-2 hours a day, plunging Armenia into the "dark and cold years. Humanitarian organizations like the American and British Red Cross and Médecins Sans Frontières also invested their efforts, but according to Voluntary Action History Society, after an "initial media frenzy and relief operation," news about the earthquake's aftermath was soon absent from the headlines. In 1989 an 8.2 earthquake almost flattened Armenia, killing over 30,000 people in less than four minutes. The destruction happened so fast that people thought the city had been bombed. And with inadequate local dialysis infrastructure, "with no preconceived regional or international organizations for renal rescue analysis," by the time it was possible to treat people with crush syndrome, the severe cases had already passed away while the mild and moderate ones had already recovered. Additionally, the AmeriCares Foundation of New Canaan, Conn., sent a plane with 45 tons of medical supplies. In addition to government aid, American Armand Hammer, a philanthropist who headed Occidental Petroleum Corp., flew to Armenia on Dec. 10 with a planeload of medical supplies and a $1 million donation. Coupled with non-compatible medical equipment, the relief effort mostly just exposed the poor planning and flaws when it came to international humanitarian aid. Although there was a rumor that orphaned children were being given away to non-Armenian families, the rumor was never substantiated and likely came about due to misinformation and miscommunication. Click here for all copyright requests. Rescue efforts underway after earthquake strikes the Soviet republic of Armenia – ABC News According to EVN Report, in Leninakan, 18,000 people were found in the ruins, "out of which 8,000 survived." What follows is a passage from his memoirs pertaining to that day. The two tremors, only minutes … Mental health studies have shown that many of the earthquake survivors still live with post-traumatic stress disorder. For more of her work visit http://www.bethanyaugliere.com. Overall, 342 villages and 11 cities were damaged. And according to "The Earthquake of Spitak, Armenia, and Its Socio-economic Implications," by the next year, with the fall of the Soviet Union, the goal of reconstruction by 1998 was once again postponed since the newly independent Armenia realized that it simply couldn't keep the reconstruction program on track. Almost 90% of schools were also lost. At least 259 aftershocks were recorded from December 22nd to January 1st, 1989. Areas to the southwest of Armenia, such as the northeastern Mediterranean coast, Turkey and Iran, are quite seismically active: More than four quakes with magnitudes greater than six have struck Turkey in the 20th century alone. Spitak (Armenian: Սպիտակ), is a town and urban municipal community in the northern Lori Province of Armenia.It is 96 km (60 mi) north of the capital, Yerevan, and 22 km (14 mi) west of the provincial centre, Vanadzor.Spitak was entirely destroyed during the devastating 1988 earthquake, and it was rebuilt in a slightly different location. In northern Armenia, the 600-kilometer-long Lesser Caucasus Mountains experience north-south compression as the two plates converge, giving rise to seismic active in recent times: a magnitude-5 earthquake hit Spitak in 1967, a magnitude-5.7 earthquake struck Leninakan (now Gyumri) in 1926, and a magnitude-5.3 event hit Kirovakan in 1911. Despite the international relief efforts, the earthquake zone is still considered a disaster zone, and rebuilding has been slow, with recovery hampered by the collapse of the Soviet Union and subsequent war with Azerbaijan. Gorbachevcut short his trip to fly back to Moscow. On Dec. 10, three days after the quake, three cargo planes carrying U.S. medical supplies and rescue teams, including dogs trained to sniff out survivors buried in the rubble, left Washington, D.C., and a military base in Italy, headed for the Armenian capital of Yerevan, about 100 kilometers from Spitak. On 7 December 1988 a colossal earthquake hit Armenia, leading to the deaths of 20,000 people. Although there were attempts to direct gas pipelines from Georgia, "seven times from late January to mid-March 1993, Azerbaijani saboteurs blew up gas pipelines in Marneuli." In 1996 the seismic zoning maps were redrawn for the entire country, and in 1994, and again in 2006, the building codes were strengthened. The rupture occurred between 5 and 7 kilometers deep within the Pambak-Sevan thrust and fold zone at the base of the Lesser Caucasus Mountains. The 1988 earthquake in Armenia is unique in some ways. While most electrical substations were repaired within a week, electricity was not restored to many residences for months, according to a 1991 report by engineers for the Electric Power Research Institute. Despite international efforts towards rebuilding homes, only about 20% of Spitak's pre-quake homes were rebuilt by 1998. economy of the region was also in shambles, Journal of Emergency and Internal Medicine, The Earthquake of Spitak, Armenia, and Its Socio-economic Implications, Nagorno-Karabakh's annexation referendum in 1988, past their expiry date and therefore unusable. Thirty years ago this month, on Dec. 7, 1988, a magnitude-6.8 earthquake shook the northern region of the then-Soviet republic of Armenia. This was the first time the Soviet Union had accepted help from the U.S. government since World War II. American Red Cross President Dick Schubert surveys the damage in Armenia following the earthquake in December. According to the book, Armenia in Crisis: The 1988 Earthquake, the man answered: “What do my hands matter, everything I cherish is under there – my son, my daughter, my wife and my mother.” In one small town, just after the earthquake, a father rushed to his son's school only to find that the school had been flattened. On Dec. 6, 1988, a magnitude-3 earthquake hit northern Armenia, though it received little attention because of the perceived lack of serious seismic risk in the area. Even decades later, about 500 victims of the earthquake remain living in what was intended to be temporary, makeshift housing. According to "The 1988 Earthquake in Soviet Armenia," upwards of 30% of people received "no on-site medical assistance" and many were taken to hospitals in Soviet Georgia or unaffected parts of Armenia. Officials think that it could take 10-15 more years to get rid of all the temporary shelters, but there still isn't a plan to ensure housing security for all of the displacement caused by the 1988 earthquake in Armenia and its aftermath. December 1988. President of the Soviet Union Mikhail Gorbachev was in New York City when he received a telegram from British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher describing what had happened and offering sympathy and aid. All the hospitals around Spitak were destroyed, and 80 percent of medical personnel were killed. mewhat similar to the Modified Mercalli scale, and, After hurricanes, U.S. beach homes are rebuilt bigger, Geoethics in the Field: Leading by Example, Inside the inferno: How large firenadoes form, Wind or water? The next day, on December 12th, a Yugoslav military plane crashed during its attempt to land, roughly 10 miles from the Yerevan airport. Today in Armenia, Dec. 7 is a day of remembrance: Armenian Earthquake Memorial Day. But Armenia is not historically devoid of seismic activity and has seen numerous devastating earthquakes. Dozens more aftershocks occurred over the next several months. Few seismologists thought an earthquake as powerful as the one in 1988 was possible in the region, according to a 1989 review paper published in Nature. According to EVN Report, the plane was carrying soldiers and relief supplies, and the cause of the crash wasn't released. However, 30 years later, thousands remain living in temporary houses or "domik" shanties created from old shipping containers. In all, 111 countries, 7 international organizations, and 53 national chapters of the Red Cross provided help to Armenia. The complex quake involved two or more ruptures on different fault planes. Hospitals and schools collapsed, and electrical and water supplies were cut off. A woman looks at her destroyed house, on December 11, 1988, in the devastated town of Spitak, after an earthquake hit Armenia, on December 7, 1988. While Western media portrayed the Soviet relief operation as inadequate and reflective of the "wider failures of the Soviet system," international relief efforts can be considered to have been equally inadequate due to the non-compatible medical equipment and out-of-date medications supplied. The economy of the region was also in shambles after the earthquake. (December 7, 1988) Earthquakes have frequently hit Armenia throughout history. According to the Journal of Emergency and Internal Medicine, nearly 600 people experienced acute kidney failure associated with crush syndrome. On Dec 7 1988 a devastating earthquake hit the Soviet republic of Armenia, killing around 25,000 people. Dec. 8, 1988: Earthquake in Armenia. Although the Soviet Union had said that reconstruction should take roughly two years, by 1989, it was clear that reconstruction was going to take at least nine more years. What really happened with that huge earthquake in Armenia? “In the Armenian Republic, thousands of people have died,” Soviet Foreign Minister Eduard A. Shevardnadze said at a news conference on Dec. 8, 1988. After the Soviet Union fell, Azerbaijan put a fuel embargo on Armenia in response to the war over Nagorno-Karabakh, blocking a natural gas pipeline from Turkmenistan. On December 11th, Gorbachev visited Leninakan to witness the damage and talk to survivors. Over 80% of the five-story buildings and over 85% of the nine-story buildings collapsed as a result. By the time the Soviet Union collapsed, less than 20% of the lost housing had been rebuilt. Meanwhile, the first rescue teams didn't arrive until December 10, with chances of survival falling under 50% within six hours after an earthquake. For trapped individuals, death rates were 81.4%. According to the Los Angeles Times, 130 factories were destroyed and at least 170,000 people were out of work. Armenia. Four minutes later, a magnitude 5.9 aftershock hit. Here's what really happened with that huge earthquake in Armenia. It began when a reverse fault slipped, pushing one crustal block up relative to the adjacent block. The 1988 Armenian earthquake, also known as the Spitak earthquake (Սպիտակի երկրաշարժ, Spitaki yerkrasharj), occurred on December 7 at 11:41 local time with a surface wave magnitude of 6.8 and a maximum MSK intensity of X (Devastating). Since most of the buildings had high seismic vulnerability, the newspaper Pravda attributed the scale of the destruction to the poor quality standards of buildings made during Brezhnev's term, according to EVN Report. On 7 December 1988 a devastating earthquake in northern Armenia killed 25,000 and left hundreds of thousands homeless in the Soviet republic. Two earthquakes hit Armenia on December 7, 1988, killing 60,000 people and destroying nearly half a million buildings. A strike-slip component in the rupture meant that the blocks also moved laterally past each other, rather than just up or down. Compared to the 2010 earthquake in Haiti which created roughly $7.8 billion in damages, the 1988 Spitak earthquake created $16.2 billion in damages. Rumbles from the quake were felt as far as Georgia and Azerbaijan. This is an incomplete list of earthquakes in Armenia. Despite tensions between the Soviet Union and the United States as a result of the Cold War, according to The Washington Post, in response to the earthquake, the Soviet Union asked for and received aid from the United States. The earthquake left deep scars on the land, as well as on the lives of survivors. According to "The Earthquake of Spitak, Armenia, and Its Socio-economic Implications" by Johanna Schott and Talin Kalatas, the insufficient design of the buildings meant that almost all medical care stations and hospitals suffered severe damage. The tremor lasted approximately I min ute, followed by an aftershock 4 minutes later of magnitude 5.8. A total of 189 such individuals were identified through neighbourhood polyclinics in the city of Leninakan and 159 noninjured controls were selected from the same neighbourhoods. The effects of the earthquake were absolutely devastating. The Spitak earthquake shattered the peace of Armenia 32 years ago. “Despite the fact that all necessary measures are being taken … Mikhail Gorbachev believes that when a people is suffering, he has to be there and he himself has to lead the efforts.” The quake came on the heels of Gorbachev’s historic speech at the United Nations in which he called for an end to the Cold War and said that Soviet Troops would withdraw from Eastern Europe. In several cases, relief teams ended up stuck in Moscow because officials simply didn't know where to send them. Labor crews that had come from other Soviet republics simply returned home "without fulfilling their commitments.". Armenia is a small country about the size of Maryland that borders Turkey to the west, Iran to the south, Azerbaijan to the east and Georgia to the north. But he had no thought of turning back. Today marks 32nd anniversary since 1988 earthquake in Armenia. However, according to EVN Report, at the time Gorbachev had a turbulent relationship with the Armenian people due to the Soviet Union's refusal to honor Nagorno-Karabakh's annexation referendum in 1988. Water and electrical supplies were also cut off and although some of the electricity was repaired within a week, according to the Electric Power Research Institute, many residences didn't have their electricity restored for months after the earthquake. As a result, the region has been plagued by sever earthquakes for thousands of years: an earthquake in 893 A.D. took an estimated 20,000 lives; another in 1667 took 80,000 lives. Hundreds of local medical workers were also injured and killed, and more than "500 medical institutions" were destroyed, making it extremely difficult to treat those who were injured and get first aid to the site on time. All rights reserved. However, according to Earth Magazine, these quakes didn't receive much attention because few thought that there was a serious seismic risk in the region. Since the Spitak earthquake, Armenia has made efforts to study and monitor the country’s seismic activity and improve emergency preparedness. Gorbachev was asleep in a New York hotel when the quake hit. Throughout the 20th century, there were several earthquakes throughout Armenia, but none caused destruction comparable to the earthquake that struck Spitak in 1988. Following an appeal for assistance from … With its epicenter located in the town of Spitak, the northwestern region of Armenia shook for approximately 30 seconds. With the winter temperatures and domik windows made of cheap plastic instead of glass, sometimes people freeze to death during the night. Region Time Mag. The Soviet Union also sent "500 of its best doctors" to Yerevan, per the AP. The Armenian National Survey for Seismic Protection was founded in 1991, in addition to the Emergency Management Administration. Between 25,000 and 100,000 people are estimated to have died, upwards of 130,000 were injured, and half a million people were rendered homeless. Rescue efforts continued until December 24th, after which the focus turned towards large scale clearing of the rubble. Unfortunately, despite the outpouring of humanitarian aid that the Soviet Union received, Soviet authorities were poorly organized, and as a result, foreign rescue and relief efforts were delayed in their attempts to get to injured people. Jump to navigation Jump to search. Innumerable apartment buildings and industrial facilities collapsed or faced heavy damage. Although some people were rescued as long as 19 days after the earthquake, thousands succumbed to hypothermia in the freezing winter conditions. Rescue teams and medical supplies were immediately dispatched to Armenia from the United States, France, India, and Cuba. With average winter temperatures of 14 degrees Fahrenheit, residents in Gyumri have to use small portable stoves to keep warm. Located on the lawn outside the 17 th street Red Cross building in Washington D.C., is a 30-foot-tall bronze statue of a mother protectively embracing her child. In an attempt to offset a six-year-old energy crisis caused by blockades by Azerbaijan and Turkey, the Armenian government in mid-1995 reactivated a nuclear power plant at Metsamor, close since 1988. after the catastrophic earthquake in northern Armenia. Spitak was almost completely demolished and the towns of Leninakan (Gyumri), Stepanavan, and Kirovakan (Vanadzor) were all greatly affected. But the region had no historic record of seismic events above magnitude 5.7 and thus it had received little attention in seismic hazard studies. 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