GYUMRI–Armenia marked on Sunday the 20th anniversary of a catastrophic earthquake that killed about 25,000 people and devastated much of its two northern regions that have still not been completely rebuilt.
President Serzh Sarkisian reiterated his administration’s pledge to finish the protracted reconstruction by 2013 as he led official commemoration ceremonies in Gyumri, the country’s second largest city hit hard by the disaster.
Below is the translated text of President Serzh Sarkisian’s address to the nation:
Today we mark the 20th anniversary of the greatest natural disaster in the new history of Armenia ‘s the Spitak earthquake. It was a disaster, the pain of loss and tragedy of which echoed in the heart of every person from epicenter Shirakamut.
The tragedy was felt by the whole humanity, which united behind the slogan “For you Armenia” despite geographical distance, despite the existence of the cold war, irrespective of ideology and political views.
It’s hard to express with words the pain and sorrow we felt. The blind disaster destroyed our cities and villages, took the lives f thousands of people, left hundreds of thousands without shelter. For many years the northern part of our country was called “disaster area.” On these days we recall the memory of our brothers and sisters who fell victims of the tragedy, we extend words of condolences and encouragement to all those who witness those December days of 1988, whose relatives and friends were killed by the horrible tragedy.
It’s a double disaster, when you bear the tragedy alone. However, from the very first day of the devastating earthquake our people felt the spirit of warmth of human’soul and friendship. The world joined our pain.
Today it’s our duty to extend words of gratitude to everyone, the rescuers and constructors, the pilots and statesmen, those who brought water and bread, those who sent blankets and tents. People were visiting Armenia to support us, to say words of encouragement, to inspire hope and faith, and simply to share our pain and not leave us alone. Today we say thanks to everyone.
Dear compatriots, over the past years we were learning lessons of the devastating earthquake. We managed to solve a number of issues. Under the immediate leadership of President Kocharyan, we carried out large0scale construction works, managed to overcome the despair, the housing conditions of a number of families were improved. Schools, kindergartens, a number of healthcare and cultural centers were built. However, we did not manage to completely eliminate the consequences of the disaster. Moreover, today we face the task of rapid development, today we should manage to have the pace of development of Lori, Shirak, Tavush and other marzes reach that of Yerevan. Together we will solve these issues.
In a few years we will be able to fully overcome all the consequences of the tragedy. I mean there will be no homeless families, the normal and gradually improving life will be restore. We have promised to do it, and we will reach it despite the economic crisis, despite the obstacles.
I will not consider the problem fully solved, until the last family, the last citizen gets an apartment and lives in normal conditions.
Twenty years ago the humanity assembled under the slogan “For you, Armenia,” words, which have acquired a new meaning and are conceived today as a call to serve our Motherland and people.
This call becomes more encouraging with construction of every new home, exploitation of every new educational establishment, with the work of every Armenian for the sake of Spitak and Gyumri, for the sake of Shirakamut and Vanadzor, for the sake of our people, an for the sake of Armenia’s strengthening.”