Armenian Earthquake Survivors Complain About Authorities' Response

Report
from Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty
Published on 16 Aug 2012 View Original

VARKHAVAR, Armenia -- When Iran was hit by devastating twin earthquakes on August 11, neighbor Armenia was quick to offer its help and extend condolences for the more than 300 victims.

But Armenians affected by the aftershocks say their government has all but ignored them.

Locals in Varkhavar, one of the villages in southern Armenia that sustained damage, say they have been left to fend for themselves.

"Not a single official has come here to see how we are doing," Valerik Davtyan told RFE/RL.

Another villager echoed this complaint, saying that "our mayor is the only one trying to take care of us."

Residents are still reeling from the powerful aftershocks that damaged a number of buildings in their village.

Some 30 aftershocks shook Armenia in the wake of Iran's deadly quake, sending people fleeing out of buildings in the capital, Yerevan, and other cities across the country.

Sleeping In Cars

But most of the tremors were recorded in southeastern Syunik province.

In Varkhavar, terrified residents, fearing more tremors, have been sleeping in the open since August 11.

Sargis Araqelyan, the local mayor, said that most people were sleeping "outdoors, inside their cars, in garages.

"People are scared. If I don't repair my house, I will never have the courage to live inside," he said.

​​Those who have returned to their damaged homes say they fear the buildings will collapse entirely.

One elderly woman gestured to a gaping opening in the wall of her living room. "I dragged my bed closer to the doorway and I leave the door open so I can rush outside if there is another tremor. I haven't slept properly for four nights," she said.

Most villagers say they don't have the resources to rebuild their homes and continue to hope for state help.

Fears are fuelled by rumors that Armenia could soon be hit by a quake similar to the one that struck Iran on August 11, flattening entire villages.

Armenian authorities have dismissed speculation of an imminent quake and called on the population not to panic.

If help doesn't come soon, this may prove difficult for Varkhavar residents.

Written by Claire Bigg, based on reporting by RFE/RL Armenian Service correspondent Lusine Musaelian.

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