The massive earthquake that struck Armenia on December 7, 1988 at 11:41am measured 7.1 on the Richter Scale. Many buildings across the region sustained heavy damage or collapsed.
At least 25,000 people killed, 19,000 injured and 500,000 homeless in the Leninakan-Spitak-Kirovakan areas of northern Armenia, then part of the USSR.
More than 20 towns and 342 villages were affected and 58 of them were completely destroyed. In the area of the epicentre power transmission lines were severely damaged and landslides buried railroad tracks.
The small city of Spitak was destroyed, while the nearby cities of Leninakan (later renamed to Gyumri) and Kirovakan (later renamed to Vanadzor) sustained a lot of damage as well. The tremor also caused damage to many surrounding villages.
Most of the hospitals in the area were destroyed, and the situation was made worse by freezing winter temperatures. The Soviet Union allowed in foreign aid workers to help with the recovery in the earthquake’s aftermath, and this was one of the first cases when rescue and relief workers from other countries were allowed to take part in relief works in the Soviet Union. President Gorbachev cut short a visit to New York City in order to visit the disaster area.