Field of Science

26 December, 2003: The earthquake of Bam

The city of Bam in the Iranian province of Kerman was an old one, since antiquity it was an important centre for commerce on the Silk Road and known for its religious significance.
Protecting and overlooking the city was the mighty citadel of Arg-e-Bam, build during the reign of the Safawida-dynasty in the years 1501-1736.

Fig.1. The ruins of Arg-e-Bam after the earthquake (MANAFPOUR 2004).

The citadel was constructed in old times with bricks of clay and straw mortar, like many buildings in the modern city, with nearly 142.000 inhabitants, were still constructed in similar matter and with similar materials - a typical house, often with many floors, had a heavy roof of concrete resting on walls of simple bricks.
A poor type of construction, the main weight in height lasting on inadequate support, unsuited to survive even a moderate earthquake.

In the early morning of the 26. December 2003, at 5:26 local time, an 12 second long earthquake with a magnitude of 6.5 shattered Kermam, the epicentre only 120 km distant in the south-west of Bam.
In only twelve seconds 80% of the buildings in Bam collapsed, many inhabitants were sleeping inside their houses and the quake surprised them - the toll of deaths was terrible - more than 26.000 people died and 120.000 people lost their homes.

The Iranian minister of the interior Abdulwahed Musawi Lari declared after the catastrophe:

"Bam has become a desert."


MANAFPOUR, A.R. (2004): The Bam, Iran earthquake of 26 December 2003 - Field Investigation Report. Halcrow-EEFIT Report: 59

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