The Biggest Tsunamis in History

A tsunami is a natural disaster that occurs in places near the ocean. It is a larger version of a tidal wave and could rise more than a thousand feet. Besides its massive size, it travels fast towards the land, crushing everything that hits its way.

Throughout the years, several tsunamis caused devastating damages to cities – leaving several people killed, missing, and homeless. Its destructive force is undeniable, and seeing one would be an unfortunate scenario.

Earthquakes are the most common cause of tsunamis – as well as volcanic eruptions and underwater explosions. The powerful movement of the ground from an earthquake generates strong waves on the above water, which is what we call the tsunami. The water would then move outwards and would often come in contact with nearby landmasses.

However, not all tsunamis have the same characteristics – some tsunamis are weaker, while some are incredibly strong.

In this article, we will look into the biggest tsunamis in history.

  1. Northern Chile, 1868 – two consecutive earthquakes are what caused the powerful tsunami on the coast of Chile. The quake measured to be magnitude 8.5, which is more than enough to destroy houses and other structures. The strong shaking of the ground generated the tsunami and hit the coast of Northern Chile. Records show that the tsunami is 21 meters high and lasted two to three days.
  2. Lisbon, Portugal, 1755 –in 1755, a magnitude 8.5 earthquake rocked the ground in Lisbon, Portugal. The quake created three tsunamis in the process, which hit the town on the coast of Portugal and Spain. The wave stood tall at 1.5 meters and reached other countries far from Portugal. The outcome of the catastrophic events reported having roughly 60,000 fatalities in Portugal, Morocco, and Spain.
  3. Krakatoa, Indonesia, 1883 –we all probably know the power of the Krakatoa volcano in Indonesia – we often hear about it and read it in our history books. Its explosion in 1883 is one of the most devastating and deadly volcanic eruptions in history — furthermore, the powerful blast from the volcano generated to tsunamis as high as 37 meters. The tsunamis surged with tremendous force and continue to hit nearby lands. The volcanic eruption itself killed roughly 2,000 people, while the tsunamis reached a record of estimated 38,000 fatalities.
  4. Sanriku, Japan, 1896 –Japan is one of the many countries that lie above the Pacific Ring of Fire. Landmasses located within this area would often experience earthquakes and tsunamis; that is why several tsunamis in history hit Japan. One of them is the tsunami that hit the coast of Sanriku in 1896. A magnitude 7.6 earthquake is what generated the tsunami that rose to 38.2 meters high. The devastating wave destroyed more than 11,000 houses and left 22,000 fatalities. Furthermore, the tsunami reached the east coast of China, killing roughly 4,000 people and damaging structures and local crops.
  5. Nankaido, Japan, 1707 – next on our list is another tsunami that hit Japan hundreds of years ago. Similar to other tsunamis, this came from an earthquake with an intensity of magnitude 8.4. The powerful quake generated a massive tsunami that stood 25 meters tall and hit the coasts of Kyushu, Shikoku, and Honshin. The tsunami destroyed roughly 30,000 buildings, as well as several other structures. The fatality reached 30,000.
  6. North Pacific Coast, Japan, 2011 –this tsunami is one of the most powerful in the world. The tsunami is a result of the remarkable magnitude 9.0 earthquake – which the fourth-largest earthquake in the world. Its horrifying wave stood ten meters tall with a speed of 800 kilometers per hour, moving towards the east coast of Japan.The tsunami itself killed roughly 18,000 people and destroyed several structures – leaving more than 400,000 people homeless. Records show that the catastrophic damages add up to $235 billion in total.
  7. Sumatra, Indonesia, 2004 –in 2004, one of the most powerful earthquakes in the world hit Indonesia with a magnitude of 9.1. This quake generated a massive tsunami that rose fifty meters tall and struck the coast of Sumatra. The destructive power of the tsunami killed roughly 230,000 people and destroyed several houses and infrastructures, in which the damages sum up to US$10 billion.
  8. Lituya Bay, Alaska, 1958 –The tsunami in Lituya Bay is one of the most famous in the world. This great tsunami reached 1720 feet, which is more than half a kilometerhigh – scientists often regard it as the tallest tsunami ever recorded in history. Despite its incomparable height, it only resulted in five fatalities. However, the wave uprooted millions of trees and swept them away. The main cause of this tsunami is a massive landslide of tons of rocks roughly 3,000 feet above the water. The tremendous force from the landslide generated a significantly powerful tsunami.