Armenia December 1988


40 km (25 miles) north of Leninakan, Armenia

Magnitude & Depth

7.1M & 5.0 kilometers

Team Deployment

29 member rescue team

This was the first time IRC had deployed 2 teams to the same mission.
The second team arrived just as the first team were getting ready to pull out from Spitak and return home.
1st Team = 15 Member Rescue Team worked in and around the city of Spitak.
2nd Team = 14 Member Rescue Team worked in and around the cities of Kirovakan and Leninakan.

Damaged Factory
IRC Camp in Spitak
Locals looking for lost relatives.
Armenia earthquake 1988 Information

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.

A permanent fire for warmth and indicated friendship to the locals who were always welcome.

President Gorbachev Visits

A Bulgarian dog and handler help with a night search.


Spitak Fire Station.

Local transport. Willie McMartin, Brian Grou, Mike Jordan, John Howman, Neil Worrall and Terry Granvill.
Work on a textile factory. Willie McMartin and Brian Grou.

Work on a textile factory. Mike Hawkins, Brian Grou and Paul Wooster.

The sond in use. Paul Wooster, Harry Blackley, Dave Sleeman (front) and Willie McMartin.

The tunnel entry. Some body parts are handed out. Willie McMartin.

A general view.
General View

An elevator factory where 1,500 were killed

Flats. Note the small cladding stone which turned to dust killing most of the victims.

The sond in use. Gary O’Shea.

A nursery school. 24 children, all under 4 years died inside. Willie McMartin and Keith Park.

View from the British Embassy in Moscow.

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