At 11:41 AM on December 7, 1988, an earthquake of massive proportions, measuring 6.9 on the Richter scale, struck northern Armenia. The shifting of tectonic plates created a cataclysmic force that erupted near the city of Spitak. The destructive energy was focused on a quiet, wind-swept valley that sits against the shoulder of the Caucasus Mountains. A deafening rumble rose from deep in the earth and the valley floor began to sway violently. The shock continued for 30 seconds. When it stopped, the cities of Spitak, Leninakan, Kirovakan, and Stepanavan and more than 150 villages lay demolished. Eight million square meters of dwelling space had been destroyed, including 35 000 homes. Schools serving 63 000 pupils, hospitals containing 5000 beds, and polyclinics providing services for 8900 patients per day were all destroyed (George Reid, Director, Red Cross Relief Operations, Yerevan, Soviet Armenia, oral communication, December 19, 1988).
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