Eyewitness Account

This is an interview with an eyewitness of the earthquake, D.V. Nalivkin (I made up the questions, the person is an actual eyewitness):


Picture of D.V. Nalivkin (the interviewee):


Q: Can you describe the aftershocks and what happened to you during the earthquake?

A: “The first (aftershock) was a terrible push in the second hour of the night. The second followed at 6 am, the third - at 10 o'clock in the morning. Further aftershocks followed, one after another, gradually weakening. They are scared of people before that even brave men fear to enter the dilapidated and almost the whole building. On the third day of tremors were imperceptible, they have become accustomed.


When I regained consciousness, I realized that even standing at the open window, and hold on to the frame and the window was something incredible, impossible. Instead of a dark clear starry night in front of me stood an impenetrable wall of milky-white, and her terrible cries, screams, cries for help. Within a few seconds all the old clay, adobe city was destroyed, and houses on the site shot up into the air a terrible white shroud of dust hiding it.”


Q: How much did the city’s defense suffer?

A: “After the earthquake the city was defenseless. Gone was the police. Those who were on duty, rushed home to rescue the family. Those who slept in the houses and barracks, were crushed or injured. Next to the building was a military town. From him, too, there was nothing left, and the number of victims was enormous.


We started making phone calls. Phone is silent: Telephone Exchange does not work.Telegraph destroyed. Railway Station - a pile of rubble, sometimes even warped rails. No airport, runways and platforms are broken cracks. All the central, regional and local institutions destroyed. Big city, the capital of the republic, was completely isolated from the outside world and completely disorganized.”


Q: Describe the city immediately after the earthquake.

A: “Fortunately, the only thing that almost did not suffer, it's cars and trucks. They stood in the open air in the lungs of plywood garage and therefore remained intact. They were the first time the main form of communication. The trucks left the town where the railroad tracks and telegraph wires were intact, and with a false telephone contact with the nearest town. By truck from the airport the pilot came and offered to fly to Kras. Trucks bound all parts of the city, brought food, countless corpses were taken away by a fraternal cemetery outside the city. It is no exaggeration to say that they were the basis of the life of the ruined city. With the truck was all the work of an organizational center, spontaneously arisen around the core of the Central Committee. Cars have suffered more, and it was not many.

Gradually the relationship with the outside world has been restored in Ashgabat on the railroad, aircraft, vehicles moved trainloads of troops and medical units, food. The first of these were in town in the middle of the day. Isolation affects the first few hours was broken.”


Q: From prior knowledge, I know that some destroyed and poor areas of Los Angeles have some criminal issues. Did anything similar happen to Ashgabat after the earthquake?

A: “In Ashgabat prison - a big, long, two-story building were two bandits who had just caught.Ironically, it has fallen out of the building only two walls and part of the security guard was killed under the rubble, as part of a scattered to their homes. Bandits could only get out of the chambers on the piles of debris, which they did. As befits a highly skilled thieves, they immediately rushed to arms, it is easy to find him in the collapse of a police station. In their hands on even a machine gun and a form of police.”


Q: In earthquakes, people usually do not die immediately as if they were shot. Can you describe about the victims’ struggle for life at hospitals?

A: “All hospitals ... and hospitals were destroyed. Help needed to organize the open, under trees. We chose the front area of the city (Karl Marx Square), where there was a celebratory podium, and a wide boulevard with large shady trees. Very soon, there stretched the endless string of injuries. Found a few doctors who brought them to the area. Tables were not, but from collapsed buildings brought back doors, put them in boxes, and work began.

Fortunately, the water in the city remained intact, and water scarce. Brought up a little bit of bread, took tea, feed, and the doctors and the victims, who were closer to the operating table.


The number of victims grew stronger. ‘A bunch of dirty clothes’ - dead, without waiting for help - were among the dead, but they have no one paid attention. Such heaps in the city was too much. The population was declared dead at the left edge of the road: trucks will go and pick up the corpses. But on the first day nobody picked up - there was too much trouble and alive. Only the next day for the city, a graveyard, pulled a string of trucks, filled to the brim terrible burden. An hour later came another batch of doctors from another nearby town, then a third. On the aircraft flew military surgeons from Tashkent, Baku, Tbilisi.”


Q: How was the city able to care for the survivors and able to recover from the earthquake?

A: “An important issue - the supply of bread - also resolved favorably. Warehouses with flour all fell apart, but the flour, fortunately, was in the bags and escaped. Bakery building collapsed, but the furnace still intact. Helped the military and mobile bakeries, and at the end of the first day there were trucks with the first bread. Distributing it for free. By granting free bread has added mutton. A huge fridge in the railroad almost did not suffer: he fell out two walls standing against the direction of tremor. The walls of the same standing in the direction of thrust, Save, Save, and roof. On the third day there were planked and plywood booths with vendors and weights. Money again came into play. Trade recovered.


But the main job were still digging. Dug up everything and, above all, corpses started to decompose. Everywhere they began to build booths, tents, sheds and barns solid, there were unearthed tables and chairs, iron beds. On the fifth or sixth day, suddenly lit up the evening of electricity. However, the phone is still dormant. But the connection between the main institutions of the military set up on the second day. Earlier, soldiers had resumed direct relationship with the center on the radio. General assistance to Ashgabat by the Red Army was seemingly invisible, but in fact significant.


On the third day the station was cleared of debris movement by rail is restored. The first passenger train drove into town only to engineers, builders and people who could help rebuild the city.”


Q: Explain the destruction and casualties caused by the earthquake.

A: “Destruction and casualties were terrible and unbelievable. Big, beautiful, lush city mainly consisted of single-storey solid brick or adobe houses. Earthquake it is not often repeated, and the construction of them bargained for. There were only two-story government building or institution is relatively young, built anti-seismic. Many of them really stood, but made so many cracks, which they then had to blow up. It was blown up and the building of the Central Committee, which saved my life. Homes and houses were completely destroyed. The city had to be rebuilt. The number of casualties remained not counted accurately, and it was impossible. But this was a terrifying figure. In the more robust buildings tumbled, only two walls, located across the direction of the shock that came from the south-east. Such buildings are often the roof remained in place, like a prison, a refrigerator and several other buildings.


The earthquake occurred late at night when all the lights were extinguished. So there were very few fires. Fortunately, the earth itself in the city not cracked (Cracks appeared in the extreme northern part of town, north of the railroad), and deaths in the cracks were not. There was not a landslide, in other cities have destroyed hundreds of people.


Severe destruction was caused by the swing, the earth's surface curved like waves on the water surface. The higher and have a wave, the stronger the vibration. Place of education Ashgabat shock is only 30 km to the southeast of the city, near the village of Karagaudan. The shock was very strong and close, so it caused the waves were high and narrow. This was the reason for the terrible destruction. In all areas there are waves of amplification and attenuation. Were they in Ashgabat? In the center of hard to see, but in the suburbs was clearly seen as a zone of strong damage alternated with belts, where the destruction was weaker, and sometimes almost absent.


We can say that almost all of the destruction occurred within a few seconds, undulating fluctuations that followed the vertical thrust. The second tremor at 6 o'clock in the morning, too, was very strong, but much weaker than the first. It only destroyed those buildings that remained standing after the first concussion. Subsequent multiple concussions observed in the next few days, have not brought devastation and victims are not followed. Shocks, they were called, were invisible, and it was preceded by only a distant rumble as if from a distant storm or gun barrage, but the roar was clearly heard only on the first day.”


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