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Earthquake Anniversary

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Today marks the 20th anniversary of the 1988 earthquake which devastated much of northern Armenia leaving 25,000 dead and many more homeless. Despite huge amounts of foreign aid flooding into the country after the tragedy, poverty in the second largest city of Gyumri remains high and thousands remain without homes leading Unzipped to agree that the past two decades were "20 years of empty promises." My old blog has some photographs from the earthquake region here, here, and here while local young photographer Anush Babajanyan marks the anniversary by posting images from one district where 300 families remain homeless.

Twenty years after the earthquake the situation in the Fountain District in Gyumri, Armenia, has not changed much. On 7 December 1988, as a powerful earthquake struck the town of Gyumri and the nearby territory, tens of thousands of people were left homeless. Many found shelter in small houses that were given by the government or found by the people themselves. The government promised then that in a two years time the people will be given apartments. Now that 20 years have passed there are still roughly 4000 people waiting to get an apartment. link

Another blogger and media professional, Ditord, simply voices his anger at official events to mark the anniversary and those officials who promised to rebuild the earthquake region but never did. Considering such events merely an excuse for a photo-op, he says it would be better for corrupt officials to remain silent and let others from his native Gyumri commemorate the day in peace.

Photo: Gyumri, Shirak Region, Republic of Armenia © Onnik Krikorian / Oneworld Multimedia 2005

1 Comment

Onnik Krikorian | December 7, 2008 5:40 PM | Reply

Reuters has a story to mark the anniversary:

Armenia still rebuilding 20 years after earthquake

GYUMRI, Armenia (Reuters) - Zhora Azizyan felt lucky when he was granted temporary housing made of concrete blocks rather than the railway cars given to others after the earthquake that devastated northwestern Armenia.

But that was 1988.

Now he struggles to paper over the cracks in the walls, and the single gas stove is no match for winter temperatures of minus 30 degrees Celsius.

"After the earthquake, the Soviet Central Bank donated temporary accommodation for two years, made of concrete blocks 10 centimeters thick," he said. "We were very happy at the time. But then two years became 20."

Sunday marks the 20th anniversary of the Spitak earthquake that flattened towns and villages across swathes of then Soviet Armenia, killing 25,000 people and leaving tens of thousands homeless.

For many in Gyumri, Spitak and other towns shattered by the magnitude 6.9 quake, the memory has faded. But for others it remains as real today as it was when it struck at 11.41 a.m. (0741 GMT).



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