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Bam, IranReturn
A destroyed wall leaves the insides of a Bam building exposed.
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Date: December 26, 2003, 5:26 a.m.
Magnitude: 6.6
Dead: More than 26,000
Injured: 30,000
Damage: 85 percent of buildings damaged or destroyed

In the days of the famed Silk Road, Bam was renowned for its textiles and fire temple. More recently, the ancient city grew prize date fruits and attracted tourists with Arg e-Bam, the largest earthen citadel in the world.

A few seconds in 2003 changed all that. Triggered just below the city, the earthquake leveled much of Bam and killed more than 26,000 people.

Many of the structures in Bam were poorly designed mud-brick constructions that collapsed quickly on sleeping inhabitants. In all, 45,000 homes were destroyed, as well as a large part of the 2,000-year-old citadel.

The quake also severely damaged Bam's ancient underground irrigation systems. Called qanats, these man-made channels carried water to residents and the city's lush date-palm groves. Most of the qanats were damaged in the quake, and many were destroyed, putting the date crops—and the city's future—in jeopardy.

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