More than 25,000 people were killed in the earthquake. After the Spitak earthquake, the level of seismic hazard was revamped throughout the country, and great attention was paid to seismic resistance of the newly built buildings. Seismic protection system was introduced. A long-term seismic hazard reduction program was developed in Armenia and especially in Yerevan. But 29 years after the disaster, Yerevan, where almost half of Armenia's population is concentrated, is not ready to resist an earthquake like the Spitak one.
During the discussion entitled “29 years after Spitak Earthquake: Seismic Safety Issues and Challenges in Armenia” held at Media Center on December 7, Zaven Khlghatyan, Head of Seismic Resistance Center of the "Seismic Protection Western Service" SNCO, Ministry of Emergency Situations, referring to the steps taken to protect against possible earthquakes, mentioned that many buildings built during the Soviet Union in Yerevan may be seriously damaged or collapsed in case of a strong earthquake
“The components of the assessment were multi-apartment buildings, which comprise about 4800 buildings in Yerevan. These buildings are divided into different types, depending on the year of construction, materials used, exploitation conditions, location and ground conditions. In total, 40% of buildings in Yerevan may be partially or completely destroyed during the earthquake,” Khlghatyan said, noting that the degree of seismic resistance of one or another building is based on the calculations of many factors.
“In terms of ground, the capital can be divided into three major groups: strong ground or rocky substrates, located in the Nork, second grade ground in the center of the city, and the third grade is situated below the Aeriacia area. Flexible buildings constructed on the third class ground may experience resonance and more injuries during the earthquake. With this discrepancy, it is likely that only 20 percent of flexible buildings built on similar ground types can withstand the earthquake.”
Alexander Movsisyan, Advisor to the Department of Construction and Scientific and Technical Regulation of the State Committee for Urban Development of the Republic of Armenia, said that a procedure is launched on the state level in the capital to match buildings to seismic hazard requirements. To complete the process, according to the expert, $ 32-35 billion is required.
“The number of apartment buildings was calculated, 140-180 thousand AMD per square meter is required for strengthening them. Since 40% of apartment buildings are located in Yerevan, $ 12-15 billion is required for seismic stability in Yerevan.”
Alexander Movsisyan said that because of the shortage of money, the state sets priorities, so the money is distributed. “The government has invested its money first in the disaster zone to provide housing, and secondly, to ensure seismic safety of schools. In 1989-2008, 58,775 apartments have been built, 4.8 billion dollars was spent of which 3.8 billion at the expense of budget and one billion at the expense of donor countries, the World Bank, and so on.”
Architect Sarhat Petrosyan expressed an opinion that a comprehensive strategy should be developed to address the earthquakes and to increase seismic resistance of buildings. According to him, though the newly-built buildings are more seismically resistant, however, for example, due to heavy density in the center of Yerevan, the rescue and ambulance services will have substantial difficulties in case of an earthquake.
According to the architect, the state must share its function of reinforcing the buildings with the private sector.
“The state does not put the burden of reinforcing the buildings on the private sector because the urban planning policy is under the Soviet logic. In other words, there is a state, the state must build, the state should strengthen, and so on. There are ridiculous things in our legislation regarding the use of buildings. Numerous multi-apartment buildings that are in disgrace, they became vulnerable because of gas supply, electricity supply, opening of shops on the ground floor and other reasons. In this sense, the legislation does not have regulations.”
The architect reminded that another earthquake like the Spitak one occurred in Yerevan in the 17th century, as a result of which Yerevan almost completely equalized to the ground, so the risk of the earthquake is quite real.
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Derenik Malkhasyan, editor/events coordinator at “Media Center”
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