An ancient minaret in Afghanistan is in danger of collapse after suffering damage from two earthquakes, an official has said, reported news agency AFP.

The 800-year-old Minaret of Jam is considered one of the finest examples of Islamic architecture in Afghanistan. The structure was in need of repair even before the disaster on Monday, but it has now weakened further, provincial official Abdul Hai Zaeem told AFP. 

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“Some of the bricks have come off and the minaret itself has tilted more. If proper attention is not given, it is possible that the minaret will collapse,” Zaeem, head of the Afghan province of Ghor’s information and culture department, said. 

The 65-metre (213) foot structure was added to the UNESCO World Heritage list in 2002, becoming the first monument in Afghanistan to make it to the prestigious list.

At least 22 people died and several homes were destroyed after the two earthquakes on Monday. 

“Although an earthquake did occur a few days ago… there is no evidence at the moment to support the theory that the minaret has become fragile. Nevertheless, we have asked our contacts in the province of Ghor to verify this,” UNESCO said in a statement to AFP.

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The Minaret of Jam has suffered damages from multiple earthquakes, floods and desert storms since it was built in the 12th century during the reign of Sultan Ghiyasuddin. Attempts to repair the structure have been made in the past, but security concerns in the Taliban-ruled region have marred these efforts owing to the remote location.  

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The most recent UNESCO mission to the site was in 2019, after which it was said that the structure was not at risk of collapse.

UNESCO head Audrey Azoulay had urged the Taliban last year to preserve the country’s cultural heritage. When the group had taken control of the region the previous time, it had destroyed two centuries-old Buddha statues, in a move that triggered global fury. 

(With inputs from AFP)