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. Despite international efforts towards rebuilding homes, only about 20% of Spitak's pre-quake homes were rebuilt by 1998. 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. However, weather conditions made air evacuations of victims incredibly difficult, as did damage to railways and roads. With average winter temperatures of 14 degrees Fahrenheit, residents in Gyumri have to use small portable stoves to keep warm. 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. The 1988 Armenian earthquake, also known as the Spitak earthquake (Սպիտակի երկրաշարժ Spitaki yerkrašarž), 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). 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. 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. On December 11th, a Soviet cargo jet crashed as it reached the Leninakan airport, resulting in the deaths of 78 people. 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.” The U.S. — and the world — responded. According to EVN Report, some of the delay was caused by "local bureaucracy wait[ing] for orders from the top." 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. And although the Red Cross implemented training for emergency-response techniques and first-aid skills in the region, residents in the region are dismissive of these measures, claiming that compared to another earthquake, "unemployment and poverty are more terrifying.". 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. Rescue efforts continued until December 24th, after which the focus turned towards large scale clearing of the rubble. Over 80% of the five-story buildings and over 85% of the nine-story buildings collapsed as a result. Innumerable apartment buildings and industrial facilities collapsed or faced heavy damage. The effects of the earthquake were absolutely devastating. 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. Spitak was almost completely demolished and the towns of Leninakan (Gyumri), Stepanavan, and Kirovakan (Vanadzor) were all greatly affected. The earthquake left deep scars on the land, as well as on the lives of survivors. 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. Labor crews that had come from other Soviet republics simply returned home "without fulfilling their commitments.". With the winter temperatures and domik windows made of cheap plastic instead of glass, sometimes people freeze to death during the night. 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. The economy of the region was also in shambles after the earthquake. Since the Spitak earthquake, Armenia has made efforts to study and monitor the country’s seismic activity and improve emergency preparedness. In some of the cities, the loss of medical staff numbered between 70% to 80%. 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. He learned of the quake via a telegram from British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher describing the situation, conveying sympathy and offering aid. 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. Hospitals and schools collapsed, and electrical and water supplies were cut off. 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. Armenia has had: (M1.5 or greater) 0 earthquakes in the past 24 hours 0 earthquakes in the past 7 days; 0 earthquakes in the past 30 days; 30 earthquakes in the past 365 days Since electricity and lights were unavailable during the first night, rescue efforts had to be put on hold during the evening and night until there was light. It began when a reverse fault slipped, pushing one crustal block up relative to the adjacent block. He learned of the quake via a telegram from British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher describing the situation, conveying sympathy and offering aid. Hurricane Harvey's most destructive force. 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. “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. According to the Journal of Emergency and Internal Medicine, nearly 600 people experienced acute kidney failure associated with crush syndrome. 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. Overall, 342 villages and 11 cities were damaged. Soviet Armenia had three major quakes in the first fifty years of existence in … 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. On the morning of December 7th, it became clear that the previous quakes were merely foreshocks to the main quake, which hit at 11:41 AM local time, measuring a magnitude of 6.8-7.0. 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. 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." Several planes would be circling simultaneously, waiting for permission to land. 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. In 1989 an 8.2 earthquake almost flattened Armenia, killing over 30,000 people in less than four minutes. This was the first time the Soviet Union had accepted help from the U.S. government since World War II. Often, it took up to five hours to travel 46 miles in order to reach hospitals in Yerevan. 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. It was a message of peace.”. 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. In 1996 the seismic zoning maps were redrawn for the entire country, and in 1994, and again in 2006, the building codes were strengthened. When someone is trapped under tremendous weight from an earthquake or building collapse for upwards of four hours, they become susceptible to crush syndrome. What really happened with that huge earthquake in Armenia? (December 7, 1988) Earthquakes have frequently hit Armenia throughout history. Witness speaks to Anahit Karapetian who was trapped for hours under the rubble of her school. 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. This disaster produced an unprecedented worldwide response to its traumatic consequences. 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. This mountain system began to form during the Late Triassic, largely from the tectonic collision between the Arabian Plate and the Eurasian Plate. In the final month of 1988, Armenia was struck by an earthquake that absolutely devastated the northern region of the country and displaced hundreds of thousands of people, throwing many into housing insecurity that's lasted over 30 years. Many consider the poor living conditions to be responsible for their health problems. According to Associated Press, the plane was carrying medical supplies and tragically all seven crew members died in the crash. STEPANAKERT, DECEMBER 7, ARTSAKHPRESS: At 11:41 on that day, the northern regions of the Armenian SSR were shocked by a devastating earthquake, which was named after the epicenter as the … Crush syndrome occurs as a result of toxins being released by crushed muscle tissue. Roughly two-thirds of those who perished as a result of the earthquake were under the age of 18 since the quake struck during the day while most children were at school. On 7 December 1988 a devastating earthquake in northern Armenia killed 25,000 and left hundreds of thousands homeless in the Soviet republic. All the hospitals around Spitak were destroyed, and 80 percent of medical personnel were killed. Soviet officials had claimed that restoration would be completed within two years. But Armenia is not historically devoid of seismic activity and has seen numerous devastating earthquakes. In June 1679, an earthquake with an epicenter in Garni yielded aftershocks that lasted until October and at least 1,228 people died in the village of Kanaker. 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. 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. What follows is a passage from his memoirs pertaining to that day. (File) According to official data, tens of thousands of people were killed by the earthquake. On 7 December 1988 a colossal earthquake hit Armenia, leading to the deaths of 20,000 people. Coupled with non-compatible medical equipment, the relief effort mostly just exposed the poor planning and flaws when it came to international humanitarian aid. The … There was no sign of life. Seismic analysis revealed a complex seismic waveform pattern “significantly more complex than those normally seen for an event of this size,” according to a 1993 study in Journal of Geophysical Research: Solid Earth. Submitted 18 June 1998 by Debra < QEagle@aol.com > as a Father's Day offering. Rescue teams and medical supplies were immediately dispatched to Armenia from the United States, France, India, and Cuba. Biggest quake: 2.9 quake 18 km south of Karanlukh, Gegharkunik, Armenia, 4 … “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. Augliere is a freelance writer and photographer and a former editorial intern with EARTH. 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. However, 30 years later, thousands remain living in temporary houses or "domik" shanties created from old shipping containers. 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. Almost 90% of schools were also lost. “Despite the fact that all necessary measures are being taken … Mikhail Gorbachev believes that when … Rescue efforts underway after earthquake strikes the Soviet republic of Armenia – ABC News 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. For trapped individuals, death rates were 81.4%. 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. 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. Gorbachev was asleep in a New York hotel when the quake hit. In 735 A.D., the Vayots Dzor Province was struck by an earthquake with aftershocks that lasted for 40 days. At least 259 aftershocks were recorded from December 22nd to January 1st, 1989. The two tremors, only minutes … Rescue efforts underway after earthquake strikes the Soviet republic of Armenia. The quake, known as the Spitak earthquake, killed between 25,000 and 60,000 people, injured up to 130,000, and left more than 500,000 homeless. On the morning of Dec. 7, the mainshock hit, strongly shaking the region for 30 seconds. American Red Cross President Dick Schubert surveys the damage in Armenia following the earthquake in December. 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. 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. She is a graduate of the science communication program at the University of California, Santa Cruz, and holds a master’s degree in marine biology from Florida Atlantic University. By the time the Soviet Union collapsed, less than 20% of the lost housing had been rebuilt. Today in Armenia, Dec. 7 is a day of remembrance: Armenian Earthquake Memorial Day. “On the evening of the 7th, the “Time” program announced a huge earthquake in Armenia… After the Armenian earthquake, thousands were given temporary shelters made of concrete blocks or old railway cars. According to EVN Report, the plane was carrying soldiers and relief supplies, and the cause of the crash wasn't released. Meanwhile, the first rescue teams didn't arrive until December 10, with chances of survival falling under 50% within six hours after an earthquake. Much of the medications that were sent to Armenia were also "past their expiry date and therefore unusable.". 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. 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. 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? Volunteers from international countries left because of a collapsed infrastructure and lack of construction materials. 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. 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. Dozens more aftershocks occurred over the next several months. 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. 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. Armenia is located on the Alpine-Himalayan belt, or the Alpide belt, which is a seismic belt that runs from the Alps to the Himalayas, formed out of the tectonic collision between the Eurasian Plate and the Arabian Plate, per Earth Magazine. 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. Then-Armenian Assembly Board Chairman Hirair Hovnanian leading a delegation bringing humanitarian relief to Armenia after the 1988 earthquake WASHINGTON, D.C. – On the 30th Anniversary of the Spitak Earthquake, the Armenian Assembly of America (Assembly) remembers the thousands of lives lost and villages destroyed after a massive earthquake, registering 6.9 on the Richter Scale, struck… One of several reasons why so many buildings suffered so much damage is that the Soviet Union "had only one building code for the entire territory," regardless of whether or not the building was in a coastal or earthquake region. The Armenian National Survey for Seismic Protection was founded in 1991, in addition to the Emergency Management Administration. Armenia. Mental health studies have shown that many of the earthquake survivors still live with post-traumatic stress disorder. 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. Additionally, the AmeriCares Foundation of New Canaan, Conn., sent a plane with 45 tons of medical supplies. 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. Thirty-two years ago, on December 7, 1988, one of the most terrible tragedies in the modern history of Armenia took place. Jump to navigation Jump to search. At 11:41 a.m., the earthquake damaged nearly a third of the small country and destroyed the town of Spitak near the epicenter. 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. International media reports noted criticism of the Soviet Union for its slow response and lack of preparedness. Whenever the plates moving beneath Armenia … Upwards of 10,000 people were reported to have been killed, mostly by the resulting landslides. The next day, on December 12th, a Yugoslav military plane crashed during its attempt to land, roughly 10 miles from the Yerevan airport. The United States and the world responded with a rush of humanitarian aid. Today marks 32nd anniversary since 1988 earthquake in Armenia. Over 200 people required dialysis, but even though there were at least 100 dialysis machines, there was "no organized international support structure with appropriate training and deployment strategies." Environmental groups opposed reopening of the plant, since it poses an environmental threat. On 7 December 1988, Armenia was hit by a devastating earthquake. 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. On December 7, 1988, an earthquake devastated the northwestern section of Armenia, killing an estimated 25,000 people. Rumbles from the quake were felt as far as Georgia and Azerbaijan. This is an incomplete list of earthquakes in Armenia. With the collapse of the Soviet Union three years later, reconstruction became even more of an arduous task. The world united with an outpouring of assistance for relief efforts, which was desperately needed. 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 the day of the quake, two men arrive in their home town only to be caught up in the terrible events and must work together to rescue as … Armenian and international foundations have been primarily responsible for building over 20,000 apartments since 1988. Gorbachevcut short his trip to fly back to Moscow. 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." Throughout the 20th century, there were several earthquakes throughout Armenia, but none caused destruction comparable to the earthquake that struck Spitak in 1988. © 2008-2020. The 1988 earthquake in Armenia is unique in some ways. 140,000 people were injured and 500,000 more were left homeless. On December 7, 1988, an earthquake shattered the north of Soviet Armenia. By Jolyon Naegele Prague, 17 March 1998 (RFE/RL) -- Nearly ten years ago, on December 7, 1988, a massive earthquake rocked northwestern Armenia, killing some 50,000 inhabitants. For more of her work visit http://www.bethanyaugliere.com. It was followed four minutes later by a magnitude-5.9 aftershock; together these quakes caused extensive damage across a 400-square-kilometer area. In the town of Spitak, out of 36 hospitals, 24 were completely destroyed and 8 were partially destroyed. According to The New York Times, most of the medical assistance that was sent for the earthquake, unfortunately, ended up being "of little value. The next day, it became obvious that this small event was a foreshock. The story was quickly picked up by the international media, but it soon turned out that the story was fabricated by reporter Artyom Shahbazian in an effort to remind the international community of the disaster. After the weight has been lifted and blood flow is restored, these cell contents start to flow through the body and can lead to cardiac and renal failure. 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. 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. The devastating earthquake, measuring 10 degrees on the MSK scale, took place in 40% of the territory of Armenia at 11:41 (local time), December 7, 1988. The Spitak earthquake shattered the peace of Armenia 32 years ago. It arrived too late for emergency medical treatment." 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. Abstract The study attempts to identify predictors of injuries among persons who were hospitalized following the Armenian earthquake of 7 December 1988. List of earthquakes in Armenia. “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. The complex quake involved two or more ruptures on different fault planes. But he had no thought of turning back. The tremor lasted approximately I min ute, followed by an aftershock 4 minutes later of magnitude 5.8. Click here for all copyright requests. 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. It left more than 25,000 people dead, over 15,000 wounded needing urgent care, and more than half a million homeless. “Many of these psychological effects that were initially identified continued to persist in this population some 23 years later, affecting not only their mental health and quality of life, but in many cases their physical health as well,” said Haroutune K. Armenian, an epidemiologist at the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health, in an article in the school’s magazine in 2015. 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). 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