In the Soviet Union, an earthquake of a 6.9 magnitude on the Richter scale hits northwestern Armenia, affecting an area 50 miles in diameter. The initial earthquake was followed four minutes later by a powerful 5.8 magnitude aftershock. More than 20 towns and 342 villages were affected, and 58 of them were heavily damaged. Spitak, a major population center, was almost completely destroyed. The earthquakes killed more tha at least 60,000 people, injured at least 15,000, and left some 500,000 Armenians homeless. Direct economic losses were estimated at $14 billion. With the USSR nearing economic collapse, rebuilding was slow and ineffective.