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MCEER Earthquake Reconnaissance Investigation

The Bam (Iran) Earthquake of December 26, 2003:
Preliminary Reconnaissance Using Remotely Sensed Data and the VIEWS (Visualizing the Impacts of Earthquakes with Satellite Images) System


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Many residents in the historic city of Bam were still sleeping at 05:26 on December 26, 2003, when the magnitude 6.6 (USGS, 2004a) earthquake struck. Their traditional mud-brick and clay homes put up little resistance to the violent shaking, and as walls and roofs crumbled and collapsed, tens of thousands of victims were trapped beneath the rubble.

The earthquake was centered approximately 10km to the southwest of Bam (IIEES, 2004), which borders the Dasht-e-Lut desert, in the Iranian province of Kerman (see Figure 1). Initial investigations suggest that the event occurred on the Bam fault, and was caused by northward motion of the Arabian plate against the Eurasian plate (USGS, 2004b). A full seismological report is available at USGS (2004a), with seismotectonic background of the Bam area provided by Eshghi and Zare (2003). For a pre-earthquake seismic hazard assessment and bibliography, see Tavakoli and Ghafory-Ashtiany (1999) and ISG (2004).


thumbnail image of schematic map showing earthquake epicenter relative to Bam

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Figure 1 Schematic map, showing the location of the earthquake epicenter (29.01oN, 58.34oE) relative to the historic city of Bam, bordering the Dasht-e-Lut desert in the south-east Iranian province of Kerman.




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