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The Codisc on Armenian time

(B2) For Lieutenant Colonel Leblanc, newly promoted to the position of director at CODISC (the Operational Center for the Direction of Civil Security), his beginnings will not have been easy. The Nîmes floods in October, and more recently the earthquake in Armenia.

But, unlike the Nîmes disaster, where the CODISC intervened directly and followed the operations hour by hour; in Armenia, the role of CODISC was essentially that of a rear logistics base. Ensuring in particular the mobilization, delivery, and return of the French rescue group was not, however, an easy task. Indeed, with 497 men on the ground and 77 tons of equipment, the French constituted one of the largest foreign relief teams present in Armenia.

Wednesday 7 December 1988 at 10:00 a.m., the CODISC is informed by… a dispatch from Agence France Presse! “8:43 a.m. Paris time a major earthquake occurred in Armenia and particularly affected the towns of Leninakan and Spitak…”. The anticipation phase immediately begins. That's to say : " what we do systematically in these cases, take inventory of the means that we could send if the Soviet government requested it.. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the French Embassy in Moscow were contacted to offer the Soviet government the provision of resources.

Le Thursday 8 December, the Soviet government announced its request. At the end of the afternoon, the DICA (*) of the South-East, Center/Ile de France, UIISC 1 (Nogent le Retrou) and UIISC 7 (Brignolles) were put on alert, as well as SAMU 94 (Val de Marne) and the Medical Support Detachment, DAM 30 (*). Air assets are requested from the Ministry of Defense. COTAM, the Military Air Transport Operational Command, supplies three DC8s and two C130s, and Air France one Airbus A300. For their part, NGOs are active, coordinated with the State Secretariat for Humanitarian Action (SEAH). The two devices move forward in parallel and in coordination. “ There are permanent contacts. The SEAH manages the NGOs, the CODISC manages all fire units, whether civil or military. »

The same day at 20 p.m., the first detachments moved towards the bases of Villacoublay and Istres.

The first direct flights to Yerevan take place from Friday 9 in the morning (6:45 a.m.) and will last until Monday 12, always with customs formalities reduced to a minimum (collective visa, non-nominative, etc.).

  •  Dec 9 morning: 2 C130s, with 169 (22) people and 16 tonnes UIISC 7 and 1 (which are normally on alert)
  • 10 Dec morning: 2 DC8s, with 165 (10) people and 16 tons DICA South-East and Center
  • Dec 11 evening DC8, C130, with 20 (0) people and 27 tons of equipment
  • 12 Dec morning, an Airbus A300, with 143 (14) people and 17,5 tonnes BMP (Marseille firefighters) and BSPP (Paris firefighters)

On site, a field staff, the DACO, Advanced Operational Coordination Detachment (equivalent to the PMA, Forward Command Post of our good old Orsec plan) is formed under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Caillarec, chief of staff of COMFORMISC (command of military Civil Security training), with Lieutenant Colonel Martin, from the Cher firefighters, and chief doctor Chevallier, medical mission manager at CODISC, as assistant.

Radio links are established every day between Levallois (92), headquarters of the Codisc, and Leninakan or Spitak, bases of the French detachments, by the means of transmission in BLU of the firefighters of the GARD (ELIS 30) and private rescuers requisitioned for the circumstance (ORISC 92 ).

In the field, 13 victims will be released alive. They are then entrusted to the dispensaries set up by our own means and afterwards to the Soviet central hospitals. " The relief operation lasted 10 days, which required a doubling of the CODISC duty team, usually 12 people.. Everyone has lived there tiring but terribly motivating hours ».

Back took place at the request of the Soviet authorities, between Friday December 16 and Sunday December 18, with arrival at Roissy, base location of the DC8 and Istres.

One moment, it is necessary to disengage

« In any case, in this type of intervention, you must know that, beyond a certain time, you must disengage. The more time passes, the more the chances of finding survivors decrease, and the greater the risk of an epidemic, with the number of deceased victims. It's obvious. At one point or another, you have to get out. So the return was made at the request of the Soviet authorities, considering that the chances of finding survivors were tiny and that the risks of epidemics were however significant. »

(Nicolas Gros-Verheyde)

Nicolas Gros Verheyde

Chief editor of the B2 site. Graduated in European law from the University of Paris I Pantheon Sorbonne and listener to the 65th session of the IHEDN (Institut des Hautes Etudes de la Défense Nationale. Journalist since 1989, founded B2 - Bruxelles2 in 2008. EU/NATO correspondent in Brussels for Sud-Ouest (previously West-France and France-Soir).