Residents of Gyumri ran into the streets and stayed there for hours after a 4.8-magnitude earthquake struck northwestern Armenia late on Tuesday.
According to the Armenian Ministry of Emergency Situations, the epicenter of the earthquake was about 50 kilometers north of Gyumri, on the border with Georgia. The tremors were felt not only in the surrounding Shirak province but also other parts of Armenia, including Yerevan.
The ministry’s National Seismic Defense Service also registered two less powerful quakes and more than 30 aftershocks overnight. No injuries or serious damage were reported as a result.
In Ashotsk, a small town 25 kilometers from the epicenter, the tremors caused plaster to partly come off the façade of a local school. Authorities there cancelled school classes for two days because of that.
Karen Mkhitarian, head of the regional branch of National Seismic Defense Service, said on Wednesday that the quake also led to an upsurge in phone calls by local residents which overwhelmed wireless networks. “We did not manage to quickly contact the ministry or our supervisors [in Yerevan,] because of that,” Mkhitarian told RFE/RL’s Armenian service.
In Gyumri, there was panic among residents of apartment blocks and, in particular, Soviet-era buildings that were damaged by a 1988 earthquake which killed 25,000 people and devastated much of the country’s second largest city. Scores of them rushed out of their homes and spent hours in the streets, fearing more powerful aftershocks.
“Everyone was on the street with their kids,” said one Gyumri resident.