The 1988 earthquake in Armenia was the most serious seismic disaster since the 1976 earthquake in Tangshan, China. At least 25,000 people lost their lives in a tremor of moderate magnitude and the USSR suffered a loss of more than 2.5 per cent of 1988's GDP. Research at the Martin Centre on the effects of earthquakes on human lives has shown an increase in global earthquake mortality rate, despite the well known improvements in some countries. The Armenian disaster was a warning to all of us concerned with natural or man-made disasters. Areas of potential high hazard are pointed out for the sub-Caucasian region. Construction practices similar to those in Armenia are certainly found in many other parts of the world, with some regional variations, and the fast assimilation of the lessons is an important target. The structural characteristics of all the residential building types existing in the affected area are presented in terms of their seismic vulnerability. Vulnerable points are discussed with a view to low cost interventions that will drastically improve the seismic safety of new buildings.