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Earthquake in Iran. This lesson, we’ll learn about an earthquake in Iran in 2003, and why it did so much damage. The day Bam changed forever.

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earthquake in iran

Earthquake in Iran

This lesson, we’ll learn about an earthquake in Iran in 2003, and why it did so much damage.


The day Bam changed forever.

The town of Bam in Iran is an oasis in the desert, where date palms and orange trees grow. In 2003, over 100,000 people lived in Bam. And many tourists came by to see its famous castle, over 2000 years old.

But on 26th December 2003, Bam changed forever. At 5.36 in the morning, while people were still asleep, an earthquake struck. It measured 6.5 on the Richter scale. It left 43,000 people dead and many thousands homeless. Over 70% of Bam lay in ruins, including the old castle.


Help floods in

News of the disaster shocked the world. The Iranian army and local people began the search for survivors. People came from all over Iran to help. Food, blankets, shelters, medicines, and money poured in from more than 20 other countries. Oxfam, the Red Cross, and other aid agencies sent people and equipment.


Why was there so much damage?

Sadly, much of Bam was built from mud bricks that cracked easily. And many people could not afford builders, so they built their own homes – badly. So, when the earthquake struck, most of the buildings collapsed, killing people asleep inside.

Grief – and anger

There was much grief in Iran about the deaths in Bam. There was also anger. ‘We all know Iran is at risk from earthquakes’ said one man, ‘but we are not ready for them. We have building rules, but nobody pays much attention. The government does not enforce the rules. And they don’t tell us what to do in earthquakes. They don’t seem to have a plan.’


2. Look at this photo. Imagine you are one of these two people. Write a diary entry describing what happened to your home and family on December 26th 2003, and how you feel about it.


3. Like Iran, the state of California in the USA is at high risk of earthquakes. Builders there are forced to make buildings-earthquake-proof. The blue box above tells you about an earthquake in California.

  • Make a table like the one below.
  • Fill it in for Bam and Northridge earthquakes.
  • From your table, do you agree that stronger buildings in Bam would have saved many lives. Give your evidence.






4. Look at the earthquake risk map for Iran, below.

  • Is Bam likely to have more earthquakes?
  • The president of Iran promised that Bam will be rebuilt. You are an engineer. Write a letter to the president with advice about rebuilding the town.