10 Deadliest Earthquakes

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An earthquake is nothing but a sudden release of energy in the earth’s crust that is responsible for creating seismic waves. The magnitude of an earthquake on the Richter scale defines the amount of damage and loss of property that the Earthquake has a potential to cause. Some of the highly damaging earthquakes have had a magnitude of 9.0 or more on the Richter scale. The highest damage is caused at the epicentre which is the point at ground level directly above the point of initial rupture of the earthquake. An earthquake can also trigger other natural disasters such as landslides, volcanos, tsunamis, etc. A tsunami may occur if the epicentre of an earthquake is located offshore. Various disaster management organisations and bodies have been formed to deal with earthquakes and the associated damage caused. Also, common people should be made aware of ways to deal with such natural calamities that can strike anywhere and anytime especially in earthquake prone areas. Some of the highly devastating earthquakes that have occurred till date are still reminisced and dreaded the world over. Here is a list of top 10 worst earthquakes that have ever hit our planet.

10. Sumatra, Indonesia

This tumultuous earthquake hit the sea bed of the Indian Ocean on December 26, 2004 measuring 9.1 to 9.3 on the Richter scale. The quake’s epicentre lied off the west coast of Sumatra in Indonesia. Known as the Sumatra-Andaman earthquake, it triggered a series of debilitating tsunamis causing a death toll of 100,100 to 225,000. The earthquake also caused widespread damage of infrastructure incurring very high damage costs and public health risks.

9. Kanto, Japan

The Great Kanto earthquake of 1923 has been termed the second deadliest earthquake in Japanese history after the Tohoku earthquake which is considered the deadliest of all. The Great Kanto earthquake had a magnitude of 7.9 and was responsible for causing the ‘Great Tokyo Fire’. There was devastating damage done to life and property even though the earthquake lasted for just 4 to 10 minutes. In totality, the earthquake and typhoon claimed the lives of 99,300 people and another 43, 500 went missing. The fire alone killed 6, 400 people.

8. Sichuan, China

The 2008 Sichuan Earthquake is also reminisced as the Great Sichuan Earthquake. With a magnitude of 8, the tremors were felt in the nearby countries as well. In fact, strong aftershocks were felt even months after the quake. 69, 180 lives were claimed by the destructive earthquake whereas the quake left at least 5 million people without housing. Many rescue efforts were made by the Chinese government. The government appropriated approximately 1 trillion Yuan to rebuild the earthquake hit areas.

7. Tohoku, Japan

The 2011 earthquake off the Pacific coast of Tohoku was recorded to be of magnitude 9 on the Richter scale. It was the deadliest earthquake that ever hit Japan claiming 15, 878 lives and leaving thousands of others injured and homeless. At least 3 nuclear reactors suffered explosions and the earthquake also triggered a tsunami. It is still reminisced as the worst natural calamity that has hit Japan. Debris from the tsunami had reached as far as Canada and Hawaii.

6. Lisbon, Portugal

The 1755 Lisbon Earthquake is also known as the Great Lisbon Earthquake. With its epicentre in the Atlantic Ocean, the earthquake destroyed almost the entire Lisbon and its adjoining areas. With a magnitude of 8.5-9.0, the Lisbon earthquake was responsible for claiming the lives of 100,000 people making it one of the most deadly earthquakes in history. The earthquake even triggered a tsunami and multiple fires creating the worst impact on the Kingdom of Portugal.

5. Aleppo, Syria

The 1138 Aleppo earthquake is frequently listed as one of the most deadly earthquakes in history. With a death toll of 230, 000 mostly in the city of Aleppo, the earthquake was named the Aleppo earthquake. The magnitude was huge, reportedly recorded as 8.5 on the Richter scale. Such was the devastation that a nearby church fell on itself. The harem containing the church was the worst hit area due to the earthquake.

4. Damghan, Iran

The Damghan earthquake occurred in 856 A.D. with an estimated magnitude of 7.9. The earthquake’s epicentre was the city of Damghan. The quake caused approximately 200, 000 deaths and 45,096 casualties in Damghan alone. Aftershocks affected the area for several years due to this deadly earthquake.

3. Shaanxi, China

The 1556 Shanxi earthquake caused much damage which cannot be described in words. The earthquake killed approximately 830,000 people. More than 97 countries were affected and in some of the affected countries, almost 60 per cent of the population died. Numerous dwellings got collapsed and several people became homeless. On the contrary, the magnitude was just 8 on the Richter scale. However, the damage done was exceedingly large. It is sometimes rated as the deadliest earthquake in history.

2. Tangshan, China

The Tangshan earthquake or the Great Tangshan earthquake occurred on July 28, 1976 and killed 255, 000 people. With a magnitude of 8.2, the quake lasted only for 10 seconds and hit early in the morning. The quake was followed by a major aftershock which caused even more devastation. The epicentre of the earthquake was near Tangshan casing fatalities in the densely populated city.

1. Valdivia, Chile

The 1960 Valdivian earthquake is also known as the Great Chilean Earthquake. With a magnitude of 9.5, it is regarded as one of the most powerful and horrific earthquakes in history. The earthquake even triggered a tsunami causing an estimated death toll of 6,000.


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