In pictures: 25th anniversary of Armenian earthquakePublishedduration6 December 2013shareSharenocloseShare pagelinkCopy linkAbout sharingimage captionOn 7 December 1988 a devastating earthquake in northern Armenia killed 25,000 and left hundreds of thousands homeless in the Soviet republic.image captionThe 6.8 magnitude quake affected an area 80km (50 miles) in diameter.image captionMikhail Gorbachev cancelled an official visit to the United States and toured the cities devastated by the earthquake. In a move unprecedented in the Soviet Union, the leader called for the international community to help Armenia.image captionSpitak, a town of 25,000 inhabitants, was completely destroyed.image captionThe city of Leninakan, with 290,000 inhabitants, and the towns of Stepanavan and Kirovakan, were also heavily hit. Leninakan, the second largest town in Armenia, never fully recovered from the earthquake.image captionCoffins in the devastated Spitak. The quake struck at 11:41 local time when children were at school and most adults were at work.image captionMost Armenian towns had many Soviet-era high-rise buildings that did not withstand the quake.image captionThe scale of the destruction prompted claims that infrastructure was substandard, provoking the Soviet authorities to pledge that Spitak would be rebuilt with blocks no more than five storeys high.image captionThe Soviet Union was heavily criticised for failing to co-ordinate rescue work and acting promptly.image captionSurvivors of the quake scrambling for bread supplies. The Soviet authorities revealed there had been no disaster contingency plans.image captionArmenians unloading medical supplies from the French humanitarian agency Medecins du Monde. The authorities specifically sought international help with blood transfusion equipment and dialysis machines.image captionThe quake displaced thousands of families. Improvised camps for the homeless sprang up in the devastated town of Leninakan and nearby villages.image captionInstead of quickening political change, the earthquake deepened Armenia's sense of isolation. New cities begun by Moscow in 1989 remained half-built.image captionThe collapse of the Soviet Union was a major hindrance to reconstruction in the quake zone. Years later many Armenians were still living in metal shelters, like these on the outskirts of the city of Gyumri.