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6.9 Quake Brings Death, Devastation to Armenia

From Reuters

The most powerful earthquake to hit Soviet Transcaucasia in 60 years, a 6.9 temblor, caused deaths and devastation in northern Armenia today, Tass press agency said.

In neighboring Turkey, authorities said four villagers were killed and dozens of houses crumbled as the quake and a big aftershock struck about 5 minutes apart just before noon.

Volunteers, soldiers and medical teams were sent to Armenia to provide food and shelter and restore vital installations, Tass said.

“Severe devastation, deaths and injuries are reported from several districts of Armenia,” Tass said without giving figures. “The towns of Kirovakan and Leninakan were hardest hit, along with some other regions.”

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Leninakan, Armenia’s second-largest city, lies about 30 miles from the quake’s epicenter.

About 1,000 Homeless

Soviet television said the quake left about 1,000 people homeless. Pictures showed whole streets ruined, with houses reduced to heaps of concrete and splintered timber.

Tass said tremors were felt throughout Transcaucasia, including Yerevan and Tbilisi, respective capitals of the Soviet republics of Armenia and Georgia.

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A U.S. Geological Survey spokesman in Golden, Colo., said the quake measured an initial 6.9. The main shock occurred at 11:41 a.m. and was followed by a magnitude 5.8 aftershock.

Tass and Soviet television gave no details of the casualties but they said the quake was the strongest to hit the region in six decades.

An official spokesman in the Turkish town of Kars, just west of the Armenian border, said four people were killed as houses crumbled in remote villages there.

‘Rumbling Like Thunder’

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“There was a low rumbling like thunder,” said a resident of the Turkish town of Artvin. “Lamps swung and people went out into the streets.”

Radio Yerevan said the quake had struck with particular force in Leninakan, Kirovakan, Gugark, Spitak, Stepanavan and adjacent areas where tens of thousands live.

Communist authorities urged people not to panic and rushed food, clothing and medicines to the affected areas, the radio said. A nuclear power station and chemical plants in Armenia were not affected, it said.

Soviet Foreign Ministry spokesman Vadim Perfilyev said in Moscow that the quake did not appear serious enough to prompt Kremlin leader Mikhail S. Gorbachev to cut short his visit to the United States, Cuba and Britain.

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“The scale of the catastrophe does not appear to be such as to require Mikhail Sergeyevich to change his plans,” Perfilyev told reporters. “The prime minister, Nikolai Ryzhkov, is here to take charge of the operation if necessary.”


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