One of the many things in life that man has no control of stopping is natural disasters. Normally, the event has to occur before responding accordingly but it is true that there can be warnings before it happens such as severe thunderstorms or tornados. Earthquakes are a different animal where one can occur with hardly any damage happening while another can cause utter devastation.
The history in Armenia records how not one but two earthquakes made their presence known and felt not only at ground zero but hundreds of miles away. The aftermath from the two earthquakes that happened on December 7th, 1988 was the destruction of almost a half a million structures and the loss of life of 60,000 individuals. Only minutes apart, the two tremors were recorded as 6.9 and 5.8 in magnitude and were noticeable as far away as Turkey, Georgia and Iran.
When the original and more forceful earthquake struck at 11:41 a.m., it happened three miles from Spitak, a city twenty miles northwest of Kirovakan and containing 30,000 citizens. One reason to account for the horrible devastation that occurred was that the epicenter was actually closer to the surface than further below. Another reason was that only four minutes had passed from the original earthquake when a second one registering 5.8 magnitudes struck closely; buildings that somehow managed to stand collapsed when the second tremor struck. The quakes would reveal later that it caused an eight-mile rupture, some spots being several feet wide, of the earth.
Almost total devastation occurred in Spitak as a majority of the buildings in the city had brick or stone roofs as well as being built inexpensively and almost all fell down from the shaking. Armenia’s second biggest city, Leninakan, holds close to 300,000 individuals and roughly 80 percent of the structures collapsed. The country’s capability to act was overwhelmed by the sheer scale of the devastation. Adding to the problem was officials during this time were controlled by the Soviet government delayed giving the authority for relief workers and rescuers to go into the area. All foreigners were ordered to leave ten days after the quakes happened.
For over a week, rescuers who were given permission to enter the area tried desperately to locate survivors. It was on December 15th that the last survivor was removed from the rubble. Some experts feel that the 60,000 death toll initially was much more considering crushing injuries were experienced by thousands of individuals during the tremors. Local health officials did not have the proper equipment to help those who suffered from kidney issues after the trauma and passed away. The rebuilding process started sometime later but this time more consideration was paid to use proper building materials as well as restricting height limits on structures.