Spitak 1988 Earthquake


The Spitak earthquake in 7 December 1988 wasn’t exclusive in the seismology by its main characteristics and other peculiar features. It was devastating tectonic earthquake of earth’s crust. On average at least 15-20 such earthquakes occur on the Earth every year.
The Spitak earthquake is one of the most investigated earthquakes in the world. The specialists had analyzed the main reasons of the disaster and made steps on arranging the seismic risk assessment and seismic protection on the bases of this analysis.
Like other strong earthquakes, the Spitak earthquake has its definite features. It had started on December 7, 1988 at GMT ( local time). The epicenter by the records of seismographs has the following coordinates: latitude 40.92
°N, longitude 44.23°E. The depth of the hypocenter, measured by various methods and means, varies from 2.5km to 10-15km. It is natural as the earthquake source as a spatial, geological body came out to the earth’s surface at the Dzorashen-Halavar area and in subsurface it extended at least about 15-20km depths. The magnitude of the earthquake was 7.0. The intensity at the epicenter was 10 value on MSK-64 intensity scale. The Spitak earthquake belongs to the group of earthquakes called “the whole cycle earthquake” i.e. there were foreshocks, the earthquake and aftershocks.

The earthquake hit 40 % of the territory of Armenia, densely populated region with 1 ml people. The affected area, where the intensity of the earthquake was > 8, involved 30002 km area. 21 towns and 342 villages were destructed, 514.000 people were left without shelter, 20.000 people were injured and 12500 people were hospitalized. Number of victims was about 25.000. Particularly in Gyumri (15.000-17.000) and in Spitak (4000) number of victims was more than anywhere else.
17% fund of dwellings were destroyed, the work of 170 industrial companies were halted, the great losses were caused to villages and agro industrial complexes as well as to the architectural, historical and cultural monuments, 917 public buildings were destroyed.

The unexpected disaster took unawares the organizations and agencies that were called to work in emergency. The rescue activities were systemized only two or three days later. From the first second the earthquake strike, the population carried out restless rescuing works. Anyhow the absence of their experience and sometimes the lack of basic knowledge on actions in emergency caused real difficulties for the efficiency of rescue operations. Even there were cases when the public unawareness brought to life losses. Also there was a need of rescue equipment.
With the efforts of population and the rescuers 45.000 dead or alive people were brought out from the rubble and 12.5000 people were hospitalized.

The main reasons of the losses are various. Noteworthy among them are as follows:
1. The seismic risk of the territory of Armenia was underestimated. The intensity of 1988 earthquake was assessed in Spitak 10, in Gyumri and Stephanavan 9 and in Vanadzor 8-9 value on MSK-64 intensity scale.
2. The special governmental committee studying disaster subsequences found out that definite mistakes in construction designing were made.
3. The quality of construction was inadequate. The construction technologies were violated and the materials didn’t correspond to the standards.
4. Governmental bodies weren’t able to control the situation in time and arrange the rescue works. Many structures weren’t ready to resist the disaster.
Overwieving the main reasons of great losses, there is a need to raise public awareness. It is necessary to learn from past tragedy as the made mistakes are uncountable and the persons who made those mistakes are inexcusably numerous.

Retrospective Analysis of the Spitak Earthquake


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