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Most residential buildings in Yerevan may not withstand a powerful earthquake and are in urgent need of seismic strengthening, a senior official from the National Seismic Defense Service warned on Wednesday.

“Those buildings … need to be strengthened from the seismic viewpoint so that they more or less withstand anticipated strong earthquakes,” said Gurgen Namalian, head of an urban construction division at the government agency subordinate to the Armenian Ministry of Emergency Situations.

Namalian spoke to journalists on the 23rd anniversary of a catastrophic earthquake in northern Armenia that killed some 25,000 people and left hundreds of thousands of others homeless.

The huge death toll was widely blamed on poor construction standards in Soviet Armenia. Many of the apartment blocks in the disaster area encompassing the country’s second largest city of Gyumri crumbled despite being designed for a seismically active zone.

There are hundreds of similar buildings in Yerevan, a city of one million residents. According to Namalian, about 60 percent of them are now vulnerable to a quake measuring more than 8 on a 12-point scale.

“Almost all our major cities, including Yerevan, are located in the third seismic zone where anticipated earthquakes can measure nine points and more,” the official told a news conference. He described as “very unsatisfactory” measures to remedy this situation taken by relevant authorities.

Namalian also asserted that new structures constructed in and outside Yerevan generally meet seismic safety standards set by the National Seismic Defense Service. Most of them are expensive residential and office buildings.
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