CaptionTwo imams pray for the dead arriving at mass graves. On December 26, the ancient fortress city of Bam was struck by an earthquake measuring 6.5 on the Richter scale, with the loss of tens of thousands of lives. Around 85 per cent of the town's buildings were destroyed, leaving nearly the entire population homeless. Many spent freezing nights in tents provided by aid agencies, as rescue operations got underway. The UN and Red Cross appealed for a total of US$ 73 million to help the victims.