The Biggest Earthquakes in History


Throughout the years, our planet survived millions of earthquakes that destroyed homes, buildings, and other infrastructures. Furthermore, earthquakes are the result of the movement of tectonic plates, although other factors like volcanic eruptions could also cause it.

In our history, several recorded earthquakes hit our planet. Some of the major quakes in our history have casualties that destroyed not only thousands of homes but also killed thousands of people in the process.

This incredible work of nature is more common in some places in the world, mainly in countries on the Pacific Ring of Fire. The Ring of Fire is a part of the planet where volcanic eruptions mostly occur. It surrounds the Pacific Ocean, and all countries caught above it might often experience volcanic eruptions.

Earthquakes vary in strength, which experts measure in magnitude using a machine called a seismometer. For the record, there are roughly 200,000 earthquakes that occur every year. However, experts say that several other weak quakes occur on the surface of the Earth, which would sum up to millions of earthquakes each year.

Moreover, there are great earthquakes recorded in our history that people often remember because of their destructive powers, global impact, and the casualties they bring.

Here are some of the biggest earthquakes in history:

1. Assam-Tibet, 1950 – Magnitude 8.6

The powerful earthquake, also known as the Assam earthquake, happened on August 15, 1950, with a magnitude of 8.6, killing roughly 4,800 people in Assam and Tibet. Besides the vigorous shaking of the ground, the people in Assam also experience landslides, which resulted in major floods in the area. The vibration is so powerful that it left the place unrecognizable, changing the structure of the ground, mountains, as well as blocking rivers. After the initial earthquake, several aftershocks followed and lasted for days.

2. Northern Sumatra, 2005 – Magnitude 8.6

The Nias-Simeulute earthquake is one of the strongest in the world. This intense earthquake hit a large part of Indonesia with a magnitude of 8.6, that reached thousands of kilometers away.It was so powerful that it produced massive tsunamis that dealt with devastating damages to nearby structures, as well asnearby countries like Sri Lanka. The destructive force of the earthquake resulted in more than 1,000 fatalities and hundreds injured. Furthermore, this catastrophic event took place only months after a much stronger earthquake hit Indonesia.

3. Rat Islands, 1965 – Magnitude 8.7

Rat Island covers a small area in the state of Alaska in the United States.Back then, Alaska was only a new state in the US when the major earthquake hit the land. The enormous strength of the quake produced massive tsunamis that reached the state of Hawaii, as well as Japan. Thankfully, the location of the earthquake is in a remote area resulting in minimal damages and few recorded casualties.

4. Ecuador Coast, 1906 – Magnitude 8.8

Next in our list is the magnitude 8.8 earthquake that hit the coast of Ecuador in 1906. The earthquake itself caused significant damage to the land. However, the greater damage came from the tsunamis that the quake created. The tsunami itself killed roughly 1,500 people in the surrounding countries, including Japan.

5. Bio-Bio, 2010 – Magnitude 8.8

In 2010, a powerful earthquake hit the coast of Chile. The quake has a magnitude of 8.8 and lasted for roughly three minutes. The movement of the surface is so strong that almost the whole country felt it. The earthquake created strong tsunamis that wiped out various structures. The result of the event was devastating, and more than 500 people died. Furthermore, the earthquake affected roughly 1.8 million people, and it dramatically dropped the country’s economy.

6. Kamchatka, 1952 – Magnitude 9.0

This earthquake is one of the most powerful in the history of Russia and the world. Thankfully, there is no casualty reported after the event. However, the quake created powerful tsunamis, as tall as 9 meters, that swept the island of Hawaii — leaving behind devastating damages in the structures totaling to roughly US $1,000,000.

7. Great East Japan Earthquake – Magnitude 9.0

Japan is commonplace for earthquakes and tsunamis. One reason is that the country lies above the Pacific Ring of Fire. However, among all the earthquakes that occurred in Japan, the Great East Japan Earthquake is the strongest ever recorded. Similar to other quakes, it triggered a powerful tsunami that hit the city and killed roughly 29,000 people. Furthermore, the earthquake destroyed various infrastructures, as well as some nuclear reactors. Several weak to strong aftershocks quickly followed the initial quake, leading to more damages and casualties.

8. Northern Sumatra, 2004 – Magnitude 9.1

The earlier Indonesian earthquake is significantly weaker compared to this.It is the third strongest earthquake in the world and the most powerful in Indonesia. The tremendous destructive power of the quake resulted in 227,898 casualties and destroyed millions of houses that left roughly 1.7 million people homeless. The force of the quake created several tsunamis that reached the surrounding Southeast Asian and East African countries.

9. Prince William Sound, 1964 – Magnitude 9.2

This earthquake occurred a year earlier than the Rat Islands earthquake. However, this quake is much more potent compared to the one that hit the Rat Islands. Despite its intense movement, the death toll only reached 128 and US$311 million in damage. The quake produced a massive tsunami that reached the island of Hawaii.

10. Valdivia Chile, 1960 – Magnitude 9.5

The most powerful earthquake that ever occurred on the surface of the Earth is the one that hit Valdivia Chile with a whopping 9.5 magnitude. The fatalities reached 1,655 and injured more than thousands of people. The whole country felt the destruction of the earthquake, which destroyed millions of houses and infrastructures – leaving millions of people homeless. Furthermore, the earthquake created a massive tsunami that killed hundreds of people in Hawaii, Japan, and the Philippines.

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