Soviets Gather Anti-Temblor Housing Data
On the roof of the Casa Real apartments in West Hollywood on Monday, a delegation of Soviet housing officials were engaged in an exercise in irony.
Huddled over a notebook, they scribbled diagrams as an American seismic engineer answered their questions through an interpreter. Delegation members were gathering data that they hope will help them earthquake-proof an apartment building in Kirovakan in the Soviet Republic of Armenia.
Meanwhile, half a world away, emergency crews mounted a massive effort to dig out survivors of the major temblor that struck Soviet Armenia last Wednesday, leveling whole sections of cities and leaving tens of thousands dead.
“In the light of recent events, it’s a shame we started our exchange in this area so late,” Natalia M. Redyandva, deputy chief of the Soviet Union’s Department of Housing Stock, told reporters through an interpreter, shortly before climbing the stairs to the apartment house roof.
Redyandva’s five-member delegation left Moscow for Washington last Thursday, hours after the 6.9 earthquake struck northern Armenia. So she and the others did not know the fate of the building in Kirovakan.
The trip, she said, had been in the works for months as part of a 14-year-old program in which Soviets and Americans share information about scientific, technical and cultural matters.
The Casa Real structure and the apartment building in Kirovakan had been chosen by the two countries as models for seismic retrofitting because they both are old buildings undergoing rehabilitation.
Although the Soviets and Americans have been exchanging information about housing for years, this is the first trip that focuses specifically on earthquake preparedness.
American officials visited Armenia this past summer.
At the news conference Monday in the lobby of the Casa Real, which is still undergoing renovation, Redyandva thanked Americans for the aid they are providing to earthquake victims in Armenia. She and other members of the delegation said they had no information about what has occurred in the aftermath of the disaster.
Vitalli I. Lepski, an engineer who is director of the Soviet Central Research and Scientific Institute for Reconstruction, said he could provide no data on how many buildings in Armenia had been earthquake-proofed before last week.
Renovation Under Way
The Soviets were taken on a tour of the four-story, 60-unit Casa Real, which is undergoing a $816,000 face lift, paid for with federal and local money. The Soviets said they were specifically interested in the $200,000 worth of work that is designed solely to protect the building during an earthquake.
After the tour, the Soviets were whisked away by their hosts, West Hollywood city officials and representatives of the Los Angeles County Community Development Commission.
Horton Beebe-Center, a U.S. Housing and Urban Development Department consultant, who is accompanying the delegation, said the Soviets were reluctant to talk about the disaster in Armenia.
“They are concerned about making too specific a statement because their information is exclusively from news reports,” he said.