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Bam: Iran's Ancient City

Quake destroys historic Silk Road city
Bam, Iran - December 26 2003, 5:27 AM

A powerful earthquake struck southeastern Iran on December 26, 2003, killing over 43,000 people, injured 20,000, left 60,000 homeless and destroyed much of the city of Bam. The USGS National Earthquake information center is reported a magnitude of 6.6 for the quake, which was located just southwest of the city. About 60 percent of the buildings in Bam were destroyed. The old quarter and a 2,000-year-old citadel (severely damaged by the earthquake) were built primarily of mud brick.

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Iran Earthquakes
Bam Citadel
بر بم چه گذشت؟

Map of Iran showing location of Bam Earthquake of December 26, 2003

Iran lowers earthquake death toll - 29/03/2004 - 16:35:32

Iran has substantially lowered the death toll in the earthquake that devastated the south-eastern city of Bam last year, cutting the fatalities by more than a third. The head of the State Statistics Centre Abbas Ali Zaali said that 26,271 people died in the quake of magnitude 6.6 that flattened most of the city on December 26, state radio reported. Officials had previously said more than 41,000 people were killed. A big reason for this discrepancy is that some of the dead were counted twice due to the confusion following the quake,. the radio quoted Zaali as saying. Zaali said 525 people were still listed as missing from the quake, and more than 9,000 people were injured.

Top 10 Deadlist Earthquakes Ever Recorded
LocationYearNumber DeadMagnitude
Shansi, China1556830,000not available
Tangshan, China1976242,0007.8
Aleppo, Syria1138230,000not available
Xining, China1927200,0007.9
Damghan, Iran856200,000not available
Gansu, China1920200,0008.6
Ardabil, Iran893150,000not available
Kanto, Japan1923143,0007.9
Messina, Italy1908100,0007.2
Source: U.S. Geological Survey

The ancient, pre-Islamic Arg-i-Bam or Citadel of Bam, founded more than 2,000 years ago and a United Nations world heritage site made of mud bricks, clay and straw, was flattened.

"The historic quarter of Bam has been completely destroyed and many of our countrymen are underneath the ruins," said Mohammad Ali Karimi, the governor of Kerman province, where Bam, 600 miles south-east of Teheran, is located on the edge of the Lut desert.

What Happened
A magnitude 6.6 quake struck the southeastern city of Bam on December 26, killing an estimated 43,000 people and destroying a 2,000 year-old fortress near the city.

Iranian authorities ended general search-and-rescue operations on Jan 2, 2004, despite the rescue of a 97-year-old Shahrbanoo Mazandarani Father Mourning his dead baby in Bam Iran Quake after 8 days under the rubbles. On January 8, Thirteen days after being buried underneath earthquake rubble, a 56-year old man was found alive but in poor health in the southeastern Iranian city of Bam, an International Red Crescent spokesman said. Aid workers told Reuters the rescued man had travelled from a nearby village to Bam for medical treatment and was staying with his sister when the earthquake struck.

Relief workers from Iran and more than 60 countries have been trying to help tens of thousands of survivors who are homeless and without basic necessities.

Local people have told reporters that on the afternoon of the 25th of December there were some light tremors in the area but this would not be unusual for the region.

Friday is not a working day in Iran so many people came home for the weekend on the evening of Thursday the 25th of December.

At around 4am on Friday the 26th there was an earthquake, which shook houses. Some people got up and went out into the street but after a short period they returned to their beds. Then at 5.27am the second earthquake struck. It measure 6.6 on the Richter scale and the epicentre was the city of Bam.

Given the level of destruction it is probably safe to assume that the earthquake occurred close to the surface. Buildings collapsed. Roofs and ceilings tend to be made of many layers of bricks to keep the house cool in summer. These collapsed immediately burying tens of thousands of people under tons of rubble.

(Citadel of Bam - An indication of 2000+ years of Iran's History, Heritage, Culture, Respect for the Human Rights, ... - An Article by Kalameh Magazine in Persian)

Bam, Iran

Bam is located in South-eastern corner Kerman province. Maintaining its position in the middle of the Southern trade route, this small-fortified city on the outskirts of the vast Dasht-i-L.t desert is just 350km west of the modern day Pakistan and 450km north of the Persian Gulf. Whether you are heading in either direction, Bam is an ideal place to stop for rest.


Located in southeastern Iran, 200 kilometers south of Kerman, the ancient city of Arg-e-Bam is made entirely of mud bricks, clay, straw and the trunks of palm trees. The city was originally founded during the Sassanian period (224-637 AD) and while some of the surviving structures date from before the 12th century, most of what remains was built during the Safavid period (1502-1722). During Safavid times, the city occupied six square kilometers, was surrounded by a rampart with 38 towers, and had between 9000 and 13,000 inhabitants. Bam prospered because of pilgrims visiting its Zoroastrian fire temple (dating to early Sassanian times) and as a commercial and trading center on the famous Silk Road. Upon the site of the Zoroastrian temple the Jame Mosque was built during the Saffarian period (866-903 AD) and adjacent to this mosque is the tomb of Mirza Naiim, a mystic and astronomer who lived three hundred years ago. Bam declined in importance following an invasion by Afghans in 1722 and another by invaders from the region of Shiraz in 1810. The city was used as a barracks for the army until 1932 and then completely abandoned. Intensive restoration work began in 1953 and continued till the earthquake.

Ancient Citadel and city of Bam, Iran
Ancient Bam, or the Arg-i-Bam, at its peak of political, economic, and military power had some 11,000 citizens living in 400 houses within its city walls, which still stand much the way they did hundreds of years ago. Since the city's inception, judged to be between 250 BC . 224 AD, Bam has thrived as an energetic market place and a focal point for the region. It was not until a devastating Afghan invasion in 1722, which crippled the city and forced its inhabitants to flee, that Bam's downfall began. Existing in shadows of its own historical greatness from 1722 and 1890, the city eventually closed its illustrious gates to civilians at the turn of the century. For the forty-year period following, the city was an active military barracks, and then lay vacant until the restoration process began in the early 1950s.

A moment is all it will take for you long to realize that Bam is an extraordinary historical site. Many of the well-visited historical sites in the world, such as the Acropolis in Athens and the Coliseum in Rome, only give the archaeologist and tourist a limited slice of history. Bam, on the other hand, clearly displayed the imprints of over 2000 years of continuous history. Surrounded by inhospitable deserts and mountains, the Arg-i-Bam seemed to shine out amongst its inhospitable surroundings.

When you strolled through front gates, you came face to face with ancient Bam. Houses, schools, mosques, gymnasiums, and bathhouses stand in the same places they did centuries ago. These structures maintained their allure, and they had the rare ability to give visitors a most inspiring adrenaline rush at first sight. Mud and sand stone buildings held much of their original shape. Little imagination was required in viewing the site and grasping how these people went about their daily lives. The superb archways and narrow dirt paths between apartment blocks, shops, markets and mosques provided the privacy and intrigue that made this historical site Iran's most treasured.

Major Earthquakes in Iran Since 1976
02/22/2005CentralZarand 6.4550
12/26/2003South EastBam6.626,200
06/22/2002North West6.5500
06/21/1990North West5.820
06/20/1990North West7.3-7.750,000
09/16/1978North EastTabas7.725,000
03/21/1977South WestBandar Abbas6.9167
11/24/1976North WestYerevan6.9100
Tue Feb 22, 6:53 AM ET Middle East - AP - By The Associated Press

People of Bam need your prayers and your HELP...
List of Aid and Relief organizations for Bam Quake Victims Send Aid to Bam Iran
Send Aid to Bam Iran
Send Aid to Bam Iran
Send Aid to Bam Iran

Iran Quake Relief - Relief International
Help for Iran - Emergency Relief - World Vision
Elam UK Bam Relief Fund
Bam Earthquake Task-Force of Atlanta (BETA)
Bam Earthquake Fund: Iranian Cultural Society of North Carolina
Bam-Iran Earthquake Relief Committee
London Persian Concert Fund Raising, Jan 18, 2004
Relief Fund: Iranian American Cultural Society of Maryland
The National Iranian American Council: Aid for Earthquake Victims

Cold, Illness, and Trauma Stalk The Children of Bam
UNICEF relief workers on the ground in Bam say that children who escaped the earthquake are still facing a major struggle to survive. Thousands of children are without proper clothing and shelter, exposing them to severe cold at night. Cases of diarrhea are on the rise as children drink dirty water. And the clean-up effort in devastated Bam is kicking up so much dust that children are beginning to suffer from acute respiratory infections. A surveillance system has been set up with the help of the UN to track the spread of illness.
BAM Children Quake Fund Bam Quake Fund: Save The Children
Support Children of Bam Quake Child Foundation - Bonyad-e Kodak
Earthquake Relief Fund for Orphans Earthquake Relief Fund for Bam Orphans
BAM Children Quake Fund Support Children of Persian Bam Disaster Relief Fund
Earthquake Relief Fund for OrphansUNICEF Iranian Children Quake Relief (secure online donation)
Click for Bam, Iran Forecast

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