Sat. Feb 23rd, 2019

The wounds of the Armenian earthquake still not closed 30 years later

The wounds of the Armenian earthquake still not closed 30 years later

In Guiumri, the second Armenian city, the aftermath of the devastating earthquake that struck the country thirty years ago is still very visible, erasing entire localities from the face of the earth and leaving half a million people homeless, some of which are still living in temporary shelters.

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According to Efe the director of the Foundation "Guiumri arants tnakneri" (Guiumri without temporary houses), Mher Khachatryan, today in this city of about 120,000 inhabitants there are 2,826 temporary shelters for those affected by the 1988 earthquake.

"We are talking about 10,000 people," Khachatryan said.

This is the case of the Matevosian family, which has been trapped in a house made with low-cost materials for thirty years.

"In one of the walls the map of Armenia has come out because of the humidity, we are six, but the older ones have gone in search of a better life," said Mariam, 52.

The Matevosian are on the waiting list to receive permanent accommodation, but each year they are asked to wait "a little longer" because, they say, new houses are given to families with young children in the first place.

"And what is our fault that our children are older?" Laments the woman.

The NGO, which since its creation three years ago has already helped twenty-nine families, estimates that "between 25 and 30 million dollars" are required to solve the housing problem in the city.

"It can be done in one or, maximum, two years," said the director, who stressed that all that is needed now is "political will."

On December 7, 1988, "at 11.41, the mountains trembled and the earth shook with great force," says one of the plaques at the foot of the monument to the victims of the earthquake and to the people who participated in the rescue tasks.

The sculpture inaugurated ten years ago represents a mountain of people and concrete blocks, in honor of the more than 25,000 people who died under the rubble and thousands of volunteers who worked day and night to mitigate the consequences of the catastrophe.

A human tide approached this place today to pay tribute to the victims of the disaster that 30 years ago paralyzed Armenia and shocked the whole world.

Also attending the event were the volunteers and a group of professionals from the Armenian nuclear power plant of Metsamor, whose representative recalled that this team was the first to enter Leninakan (Soviet name of Guiumri) after the earthquake.

"As soon as we entered, they sent us to a school, where we recovered the bodies of 400 children," a veteran reminded Efe.

The interim Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinián intervened before the participants, who expressed regret that thirty years after the earthquake, the "disaster zone" still exists.

"To those affected by the earthquake I want to tell you the following: dear compatriots, your pains are in my heart, in your needs, in my mind and your desires, in my soul, and that allows me to say with certainty that everything will be fine, everything really It will be very good, "he promised.

In 1988, the earthquake lasted 30 seconds, enough for the city of Spitak to cease to exist, at the epicenter of the tremor, where the telluric movement marked 10 degrees of magnitude on the Richter scale.

Meanwhile, Guiumri, Vanadzor (former Kirovakan) and hundreds of villages in the area were partially destroyed.

More than 140,000 people were disabled and some 514,000 lost their homes, according to official figures.

The international community turned en masse with Armenia after the earthquake, sending medicines, emergency personnel and humanitarian aid.

The Soviet Government hoped to conclude the reconstruction work in less than five years, but the disintegration of the USSR in 1991 fulminated these plans and hundreds of thousands of victims overnight found themselves in a precarious situation with an uncertain future.

The fragile economy of the young state, the conflict with neighboring Azerbaijan over the control of Nagorno Karabakh and the rampant corruption slowed the rebuilding efforts for years and now, three decades later, the ghost of the earthquake still glides over Guiumri.

However, the new Armenian authorities, who came to power after a popular revolt last spring, are determined to solve the problem as soon as possible, to help the suffering people to heal one of the most profound wounds of its recent history.

"Viva Pashinián!" The inhabitants of Guiumri chanted at the passing of the prime minister, to whom they are grateful to have paid special attention to the anniversary.


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