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Preliminary Earthquake Reconnaissance Report on the June 22, 2002 Changureh (Avaj), Iran Earthquake

Prepared by

Dr. Babak Mansouri, ImageCat, Inc.
Dr. M. Fatemi Aghda and Dr. H. Safari, Natural Disaster Research Center of Iran



Key Findings and Lessons Learned



On June 22, 2002 at 7:28 a.m. local time, a MW 6.4 earthquake hit the northwestern region of Iran causing significant damage and casualties to small mountainous towns and villages in the area. According to the International Institute of Earthquake Engineering and Seismology (IIEES), the earthquake - named the Changureh (Avaj) earthquake - was felt as far as Tehran, which approximately 180 miles east of the epicenter. The latest reports indicate that the death toll is 261 and the number of injured exceeds 1,300 people. In addition, over 25,000 people are estimated to be homeless as a result of this earthquake. Figure 1 shows a map of the region with the epicenter and major faults located.

Figure 1 Fault Map of Northwestern Iran (Source: IIEES, 2002)

Figure 2 shows a seismicity map of the region. Iran is populated with numerous NW-SE trending fault lines. This particular earthquake occurred on a hidden fault according to IIEES (2002).

Figure 2 Seismicity Map of Northwestern Iran (Source: IIEES, 2002)

This preliminary report was prepared for the Multidisciplinary Center for Earthquake Engineering Research (MCEER) by Dr. Babak Mansouri of ImageCat, Inc. Dr. Mansouri was in Iran at the time of the earthquake. The photos that are contained in this report were taken during the first week after the earthquake. To document the effects from this moderate-sized event, Dr. Mansouri used a digital camera connected to a GPS unit. Therefore, all images can be tied to a specific location or geographic coordinate in the region. This report consists mostly of photos with brief explanations. A more detailed report is pending based on the data that is collected in the next several months. The purpose of this report is to provide the readers with 1) a quick summary of key statistics on the earthquake, 2) a catalog of images of the event, and 3) preliminary findings or lessons learned from the earthquake.

Key Damage and Impact Statistics 

Updated statistics: (7/19/02)

Brief Background on Building Design Codes in Iran

Although there is an updated building code that is comparable to the Uniform Building Code (UBC) of the United States and also in practice for Iranian civil engineers, the application of this code is limited primarily to the larger cities of Iran. In villages, there is typically no standard for the seismic design and/or construction of buildings. Villagers tend to build their own houses at minimal cost and with minimal safety measures in place. The Qazvin region is prone to earthquakes with its most recent event occurring 39 years ago. The earthquake affected the Booeen Zahra region with devastating results. Unfortunately, little has changed in terms of the design or construction of village houses in that region compared to those that were damage 39 years ago.

Figure 3 shows a map of the towns and villages visited during this reconnaissance trip. All of the sites visited were east of the epicenter and all experienced significant damage and disruption.

Note: The map is created based on my visit and GPS measurement. 
The fault line is taken from a reference (IIEES)

Figure 3 Towns and Villages affected by June 22nd Earthquake


Reconnaissance Trip

On Thursday at 5:15 AM June 27, 2002 the reconnaissance trip started from Tehran (lat 35 degrees, 48.161' & lon 51 degrees, 27.561') (odometer reading was 230882 km). I met with professor Fatemi Aghda of University of Tarbiat Moalem and a director of the Natural Disaster Research Center of Iran (odometer reading 230948 km). We headed shortly to the disaster zone of Qazvin province. At 9:00 AM (odometer 231137 km), we arrived at the historic/tourist city of Abgarm, famous for its hot springs. Nearby, Kharaghan is an ancient city with a famous monument structure that suffered damage due to this recent earthquake. But, due to time constraints, we chose another path that included most of the disaster sites. The following pictures are taken in the progressive sequence of our trip.

Village of Tableshkin



Taken at: 9:35AM 
Odometer reading: 231160 km
Approaching the first village. Typical villages in this region are made of mud and timber.
Red Crest Tents are circled.

Tableshkin reported 100% damage. Although the houses may seem intact, due to cracks in the walls and roofs and the frequent occurrence of after shocks, people left their houses and lived in tents.

Village of Ab Dareh


Taken at: 10:00 AM      Odometer: 231170 km     GPS reading: Lat: N 35 47.630'    Lon: E 49 01.277'      
elevation: 5887 ft    GPS accuracy: 15ft
Total collapse of the village. The village is being bulldozed. 
All the houses were destroyed. A refrigerator is circled.




One of the only standing structures is the public shower room constructed with decent building materials

Bulldozing activity is circled in A4 and A5




Ministry of Housing Engineers are estimating the loss and also estimating the reconstruction cost.

One lucky house in the village with better construction.
A wall crack is circled.


Village of Changooreh


Changooreh bridge (near the village of Changooreh) 10:45 AM  Odometer: 231178
GPS: N 35 46.552' E 48 58.304'  elevation: 6118ft

Changooreh road bridge failed and closed to traffic. Failed abutments are shown in the circle.




11:00 AM GPS: N 35 46.350' E 48 57.871' elev. 6287ft

Failure of the columns and slabs/joists




Total Collapse

A14 A15

GPS: N35 46.278' E48 57.819'
Elevation: 6292ft
Shear cracks in walls are circled.

A16 A17

Fancy house suffered failure in most of the nonstructural walls.

Fancy house - outside wall collapsed because it lacked reinforcement.
GPS: N 35 46.249' E 48 57.792' elevation 6288ft

A18 A19
A20 A21

GPS: N 35 46.219' E 48 57.804' elevation: 6275 ft

First story pancaked

A22 A23
B1 B2

All the power posts visited were intact.



After visiting Changooreh, we arrived at the village of Kameshkan at 13:00PM
GPS: N 35 44,711' E 48 56,245' el: 6801 ft
It didn't seem devastated so we moved on to Khandaab.


Village of Khandaab

B4 B5

This school looks intact.
13:30 PM odometer: 231193 km
GPS: N 35 42.367' E 48 58.637' el: 7320ft



The village from a distance


We moved to the next village (Mansoor). Only four wheel drive (4WD) trucks (such as ours) could pass through these hilly roads.

Village of Mansoor

B9 B10

GPS: N 35 41.559' E 49 03.717' el: 6153ft
Shrine of Ismaeel Khazaee is damaged

Then, we moved to the village of Imamzadeh Alaedin. No casualties in this village. Some houses suffered cracks.

Village of Imamzadeh Alaedin

B11 B12

16:00 PM odometer: 231213 km
GPS: N 35 39.287' E 49 05.186' el: 6873ft

The Shrine of Imamzadeh Alaedin. This historic place was reconstructed following past earthquakes and it was damaged again. The dome is in two layers. The inner layer seemed intact and not reconstructed. The outer shell was damaged again.

We then proceeded to the city of Avaj. In this city, a few tents were erected in the neighborhoods with damaged buildings. Damaged buildings were of extremely poor construction. There was a new building that was damaged and received our attention (pictures below).

Village of Avaj

B13 B14

Damage to Nonstructural Components
18:00PM odometer: 231240 km
GPS: N 35 34.973' E49 13.372' el: 6515ft

Nonstructural walls could not sustain the deformation



All the partitioning walls (inner nonstructural) collapsed. Walls are braced. One bracing yielded.

B16 B17

Shear cracks in the inner walls


Key Findings and Lessons Learned

(Provided by the Natural Disaster Research Center of Iran)

Geology and Seismicity of the Affected Area

The area of interest is located in the Northern zone of Sanandaj-Sirjan. The general trend of faulting for the region is in the direction of N130 (130 degrees clockwise from the North pole). Other trends that are basically secondary are in the directions of N145, N115, N175 and N25. In Changooreh, Ab Dareh and Hessar, almost all of the mentioned trends are observable. Based on the field investigations before the recent earthquake, the main ground faulting was in the N115 direction that included reverse faults with some right strike slip components. In the recent event, however, the main trend of ground faulting is within N135-N145 that is due to synthetic rupture of the main shear zone (N130). Many instances of liquefaction occurred around the villages of Tableshkin and Hassan Abad (near Hessar). Surface fissures with various trends happened near the villages of Tableshkin, Hassan Abad, Mansoor, and Khandab. The earthquake fault is located near Changooreh and Aab Dareh. The village of Saeed Abad experienced a landslide.

Lessons Learned

Although the earthquake magnitude was high and it was generated in a shallow depth (~ 10 km below the ground surface), the surface shaking was much lower. The region is on marl stone bedrock that dampened the ground shaking considerably. Nevertheless, the main cause of the devastating destruction was due to the poor design/construction and the selection of poor building materials.

Due to the frequent occurrence of devastating earthquakes in the region, serious measures must be taken to control urban development and earthquake safe housing design/construction in the villages must be adopted.

Relevance to the U.S.

In general, there is no comparison between structural quality and construction in villages and towns in the United States and the ones in Iran. The few buildings that were constructed according to the Iranian building code were able to sustained the earthquake. Almost no structural components failed due to the shaking, but a large number of the non-structural components such as partitioning walls (masonry materials) failed and caused severe damage to the building. The study of the impact/interaction of the non-structural parts to the structural elements is very crucial in both the US and Iran (and throughout the world). This recent earthquake provided some good examples for future research. The relevance of this research to the US can be seen also in terms of further understanding the seismic activities and ground failure of seismically vulnerable countries.


International Institute for Earthquake Engineering and Seismology (Iran)
Natural Disaster Center of Iran
Ministry of Interior

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