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 earthquake killed more than 25,000 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.