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Armenian Families Still Feel Impact Of 1988 Earthquake

Twenty-six years ago, on December 7, 1988, a 6.8 magnitude earthquake struck northwestern Armenia, then part of the Soviet Union. The catastrophe killed some 31,000 people, injured 130,000, and left many more homeless. The town of Gyumri, then known as Leninakan, was the hardest hit, and has yet to recover. Thousands of people moved away, but others who lost their homes lacked the resources to leave, and were forced to find makeshift housing. Today, about 600 families continue to live in shacks or Soviet-era wagons without running water or power. (Text and photos by Anthony Georgieff)

This shantytown in Gyumri is still occupied 26 years after a massive earthquake destroyed much of the town.
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This shantytown in Gyumri is still occupied 26 years after a massive earthquake destroyed much of the town.

Some 600 families who lost their homes in the earthquake still live in makeshift residences.
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Some 600 families who lost their homes in the earthquake still live in makeshift residences.

This family has built a permanent structure around a mobile trailer.
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This family has built a permanent structure around a mobile trailer.

A resident of a shantytown in Gyumri
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A resident of a shantytown in Gyumri

The 1988 earthquake was so severe that Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev formally asked the United States for humanitarian help -- the first such request since the end of World War II.
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The 1988 earthquake was so severe that Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev formally asked the United States for humanitarian help -- the first such request since the end of World War II.

Within a few weeks, 131 countries contributed over $500 million, with the United States and much of Western Europe sending rescue equipment, search teams, and medicine.
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Within a few weeks, 131 countries contributed over $500 million, with the United States and much of Western Europe sending rescue equipment, search teams, and medicine.

But the aid effort was not enough to rebuild thousands of destroyed houses.
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But the aid effort was not enough to rebuild thousands of destroyed houses.

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Most who lost their homes have either found new places to live or moved elsewhere. But some of those who remain in Gyumri are elderly people living in cabins and wagons allocated by the Soviet authorities after the earthquake.
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Most who lost their homes have either found new places to live or moved elsewhere. But some of those who remain in Gyumri are elderly people living in cabins and wagons allocated by the Soviet authorities after the earthquake.

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