Mapped: 20 Largest Earthquakes In The World


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this map shows the 20 largest earthquakes in the world history
Courtesy: National Science Foundation

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20 Largest Earthquakes In The World

In scientific terms, an earthquake is triggered when two blocks or parts of the earth suddenly slide past one another. This occurs due to the slow yet gradual movement of surface parts of earth which are called “plates”.

Time to time, these slides on earth plates have triggered massive earthquakes and have killed hundreds of thousands of people in the surrounding regions. The following are the 20 deadliest earthquakes ever in modern recorded history.

1) Magnitude: 9.5 – Chile Valdivia Earthquake (1960-05-22)

Valdivian Earthquake struck near the city of Valdivia in Chile and was the most powerful earthquake struck ever in the recorded history. More than 2 million people were displaced and around 7,000 lost their lives.

2) Magnitude: 9.2 – Southern Alaska 1964 Great Alaska Earthquake (1964-03-28)

Also known as the Good Friday earthquake, cost around 131 people their lives and massive damage of nearly $116 million in 1964, which today would be around one billion US dollars.

3) Magnitude: 9.1 – Sumatra Earthquake and Tsunami (2004-12-26)

The third most devastating earthquake was perhaps the most financially costly, inflicting damage of nearly 15 Billion dollars and left a massive death toll of 227,898; making it one of the deadliest in history.

4) Magnitude: 9.1 – Japan Tohoku Earthquake (2011-03-11)

The fourth most destructive earthquake struck the region of Tohoku and left a death toll of 15,897 people, 6,157 injured and 2,532 missing personnel.

5) Magnitude: 9.0 – Kamchatka, Russia (1952-11-04)

The earthquake struck a region where there are no many human settlements. Therefore, although it was massive, no casualties were recorded. The resulting Tsunami reached as far as Alaska, Chile, Hawaii, and New Zealand. Around a million dollars’ worth of property was destroyed by this earthquake.

6) Magnitude: 8.8 – Chile Maule Earthquake (2010-02-27)

Many cities in Maule region of Chile were badly affected and destroyed by this earthquake. More than 525 people lost their lives and 25 people were missing. In Chile alone, more than 370,000 houses were destroyed.

7) Magnitude: 8.8 – Ecuador–Colombia Earthquake (1906-01-31)

The earthquake struck the sea region between Ecuador and Colombia and the resulting tsunami claimed more than 1,000 casualties and the maximum run-up height was 16 feet! The effect was felt in regions like Costa Rica, Panama, Mexico, California, and even Japan.

8) Magnitude: 8.7 – Alaska Rat Islands Earthquake (1965-02-04)

Although this earthquake was of massive magnitude, it caused very little damage both in terms of property and human lives as the region was not populated densely. Around $10,000 of property were damaged and the tsunami waves rose up to nearly 35 feet in some regions.

9) Magnitude: 8.6 – Eastern Xizang-India border region Earthquake Assam, Tibet (1950-08-15)

The earthquake was a result of the continental collision and was notable for the loud noises produced by the quake. A total of approximately 4,800 people lost their lives and more than 3,300 were reported in Tibet. The earthquake caused floods and landslides which caused massive destruction to the nearby villages in the region.

10) Magnitude: 8.6 – off the West Coast of Northern Sumatra (2012-04-11)

The 2012 earthquake was not as destructive as the 2004 one and caused only 10 deaths and 12 injured. However, the massive earthquake was felt as far as Malaysia, Maldives, and India.

11) Magnitude: 8.6 – Northern Sumatra, Indonesia Nias – Simeulue Earthquake (2005-03-28)

This was the 3rd most powerful earthquake in Indonesia since 1965 and resulted in the death of approximately 1,300 people and injuring around 1,100 people. However, the tsunami generated from this earthquake was relatively week. But the effects were felt as far as Bangkok, Thailand which is approximately 1,000 kilometers away.

12) Magnitude: 8.6 – Andreanof Islands, Aleutian Islands, Alaska (1957-03-09)

This earthquake too struck the least populous region in Alaska and claimed no human lives yet the damage caused was around five million dollars. In addition, warnings from the Seismic Sea Wave Warning System contributed much to minimalize the casualties in the region.

13) Magnitude: 8.6 – South of Alaska Unimak Island Earthquake, Alaska (1946-04-01)

This earthquake struck near Aleutian Islands and claimed between 165 – 173 casualties and resulted in nearly $26 million dollars of destruction.

14) Magnitude: 8.5 – Banda Sea (1938-02-01)

Banda region is near Papua New Guinea and this earthquake did not cost any human lives, yet destructive tsunami waves rose up to 1.5 meters and even Indonesia and Australia felt the earthquake.

15) Magnitude: 8.5 – Atacama, Chile Chile-Argentina Border (1922-11-11)

Also known as the “Vallenar Earthquake”, this even triggered a destructive tsunami and cost several hundred casualties and the earthquake itself killed more than 1,000 people. This was felt in regions such as Australia as well.

16) Magnitude: 8.5 – Kuril Islands (1963-10-13)

This earthquake was dangerous and intense in magnitude yet there were no recorded deaths or damages as it affected a remote region.

17) Magnitude: 8.4 – Near the East Coast of Kamchatka Peninsula, Russia (1923-02-03)

This earthquake which struck the eastern end of the USSR (today Russia) reportedly claimed only 3 lives but triggered a tsunami with wave heights up to eight meters.

18) Magnitude: 8.4 – Southern Sumatra, Indonesia (2007-09-12)

This earthquake affected Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia, and Thailand and killed nearly 23 people.

19) Magnitude: 8.4 – Near the Coast of Southern Peru Arequipa, Peru Earthquake (2001-06-23)

This earthquake resulted in 2,687 to 2,713 people and killed around 145 people. The tsunami triggered waves up to 23 feet high. This was one of the most fatal earthquakes in South America to date.

20) Magnitude: 8.4 – Off the East Coast of Honshu, Japan Sanriku, Japan (1933-03-02)

This earthquake whipped out nearly 98% of the households in the region and 42% of the area’s population. Total deaths resulting from this were 1522 and 1,542 people went missing. More than 12,000 people were injured.


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