An earthquake is the shaking of the surface of the Earth resulting from the sudden release of energy in the Earth’s lithosphere that creates seismic waves. Throughout the recorded history, earthquakes have resulted in the loss of numerous human lives.
Earthquakes on land have contributed some of the largest death tolls in human history. The worst of the damage attributed from the earthquake was caused by a tsunami as it was seen 2004 Indian Ocean Earthquake that hit Indonesia, with reported 10 m high waves hitting the island nations, resulting in almost 280,000 casualties and estimated total damage of 19.9 billion USD.
The world’s most powerful earthquake with an instrumentally documented magnitude occurred on May 22, 1960, near Bio-Bio, in southern Chile. It was assigned a magnitude of 9.5 by the U.S. Geological Survey.
The following are the Top 10 largest earthquakes in terms of magnitude ever recorded in human history:
10. Northern Sumatra Earthquake, 2012 (Magnitude 8.6)
The 2012 earthquake’s epicentre was located within the Indo-Australian Plate and occurred about 610 km southwest of Banda Aceh, Indonesia, with a magnitude of 8.6.
This was an unusually strong intraplate earthquake and the largest strike-slip earthquake ever recorded that occurred at a depth of 22.9 km.
The earthquake was felt over a large area, including Indonesia, the Maldives, Sri Lanka, India, Nepal, Bhutan, China, Bangladesh, Burma, Thailand, Malaysia, Laos, Cambodia, Singapore, and Vietnam. 10 to 12 casualties were reported.
9. Assam-Tibet Earthquake, 1950 (Magnitude 8.6)
The earthquake occurred in the rugged mountainous areas between the Himalayas and the Hengduan Mountains. The earthquake was located just south of the McMahon Line between India and Tibet and had devastating effects in both regions.
The 1950 Assam–Tibet earthquake had devastating effects on both Assam and Tibet. In Assam, 1,526 fatalities were recorded and another 3,300 were reported in Tibet for a total of approximately 4,800 deaths.
8. Rat Islands Earthquake, 1956 (Magnitude 8.7)
It had a magnitude of 8.7 and triggered a tsunami of over 10m on Shemya Island in Alaska, but caused no casualties. Minor damage from the earthquake was recorded on both Attu and Shemya islands in the form of cracks on U.S. Airforce runways.
7. Ecuador–Colombia Earthquake, 1906 (Magnitude 8.8)
The 1906 Ecuador–Colombia earthquake occurred on January 31, off the coast of Ecuador, near Esmeraldas. The earthquake had a moment magnitude of 8.8 and triggered a destructive tsunami that caused at least 500 casualties on the coast of Colombia.
6. Maule Earthquake, 2010 (Magnitude 8.8)
The 2010 Chile earthquake occurred off the coast of central Chile in Maule region, having a magnitude of 8.8 on the moment magnitude scale, with intense shaking lasting for about three minutes.
People were found dead after the earthquake struck, mostly under buildings and inside cars. Many people were also seriously injured, with reported casualties of 525 dead, 25 missing (2012).
5. Kamchatka earthquakes, 1952 (Magnitude 9.0)
The Kamchatka Tsunami was generated by a magnitude 9.0 earthquake on November 4, 1952, in East Russia. The local tsunami, which generated waves as high as 50 feet, caused extensive damage to the Kamchatka Peninsula and the Kuril Islands and left an estimated 10,000 to 15,000 people dead.
4. Tōhoku earthquake, 2011 (Magnitude 9.1)
The earthquake is often referred to in Japan as the Great East Japan Earthquake. It was the most powerful earthquake ever recorded in Japan, and the fourth most powerful earthquake in the world since modern record-keeping began in 1900.
The earthquake triggered powerful tsunami waves that reached heights of up to 40.5 metres. The tsunami caused nuclear accidents, primarily the level 7 meltdowns at three reactors in the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant complex, and the associated evacuation zones affecting hundreds of thousands of residents.
The total number of casualties caused by the disaster to be estimated at around 19,575 as of 2017 September.
3. Sumatra-Andaman Islands Earthquake, 2004 (Magnitude 9.1)
With a magnitude of 9.1, it is the third largest earthquake ever recorded on a seismograph. This third largest earthquake caused the entire planet to vibrate as much as 1 centimetre (0.4 inches) and triggered other earthquakes as far away as Alaska. It caused an Indian Ocean tsunami that is thought to have had the energy of 23,000 atomic bombs.
Killing over 230,000 people in fourteen countries, and inundating coastal communities with waves up to 30 meters (98 ft) high. It was one of the deadliest natural disasters in recorded history. Indonesia was the hardest-hit country, followed by Sri Lanka, India, and Thailand.
2. Alaska earthquake, 1964 (Magnitude 9.2)
Alaska earthquake of 1964, earthquake that occurred in south-central Alaska on March 27, 1964, with a moment magnitude of 9.2. The death toll was only 131 because of the low density of the state’s population, but property damage was high. The earthquake tilted an area of at least 46,442 square miles (120,000 square km).
Extensive damage in coastal areas resulted from submarine landslides and tsunamis. Tsunami damage occurred as far away as Crescent City, California.
1. Chile, Valdivia earthquake, 1960 (Magnitude 9.5)
The 1960 Valdivia earthquake or Great Chilean earthquake of 22 May is the most powerful and largest earthquake ever recorded. Various studies have placed it at 9.4-9.6 on the moment magnitude scale.
The earthquake occurred beneath the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Chile. Ground motion from this earthquake destroyed or damaged thousands of buildings. The Chilean government estimated that about 2,000,000 people were left homeless.
There are many different casualty estimates for this earthquake. They range from a low of 490 to a high of 6000 (approx). Most of the casualties were caused by tsunamis in Chile and from ground motion. However, according to some reports, people as far away as the Philippines were killed by this event.
The costs of the damage were estimated to have been between $400 and $800 million in 1960 dollars, which would be about $3 to $6 billion today, adjusted for inflation.