September 16

This Day in History

Disaster

Sep 16, 1978:

Killer quake shakes Iran

An extremely deadly earthquake rocks Iran, killing more than 25,000 people on this day in 1978. The 7.7-magnitude quake struck the northeastern part of the country, an area that has traditionally seen much seismic activity.

Ten years earlier, a 6.5-magnitude quake centered in northern Iran near the Afghanistan border killed approximately 12,000 people. When a stronger tremor hit the area on this day in 1978, the results were even more deadly. A majority of houses in the region were constructed of dried mud and collapsed easily. Although the residents were well aware of this danger, most could not afford to build stronger homes.

The town of Tabas was most affected by the earthquake, which was felt as far as 400 miles away in the Iranian capital of Tehran. Of the 17,000 people who lived in Tabas at the time, only about 2,000 survived. The only structures still standing after the powerful shaking were the steel-framed school and bank. Thirty other small towns and villages were also leveled, bringing the death toll past 25,000 people. So many survivors were left homeless that tent cities sprang up all over the countryside.

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