List of the strongest and deadliest earthquakes
February 27, 2010
On February 27, 2010 a magnitude 8.8 earthquake struck Maule, Chile causing widespread damage and casualties. The quake ranks as one of the ten strongest earthquakes ever recorded and was the most powerful earthquake worldwide since the 2004 Sumatran quake that triggered the massive Indian Ocean tsunami. The Maule was the strongest earthquake to strike Chile since the magnitude 9.5 which hit Valdivia on May 22, 1960.
A tsunami warning from the Maule quake has been issued for the U.S. west coast, British Columbia, and Alaska.
A list of other major earthquakes (compiled from the U.S. Geological Survey).
May 22, 1960: Magnitude 9.5 earthquake killed 1,655, injured 3,000, left 2,000,00 homeless, and caused $550 million damage in southern Chile; while the ensuing tsunami caused 61 deaths, $75 million damage in Hawaii; 138 deaths and $50 million damage in Japan; 32 dead and missing in the Philippines; and $500,000 damage to the west coast of the United States.
Offbeat earthquake articles
Earthquake triggers decline in a frog species
(12/03/2007) In 1999 a 7.3 earthquake struck Nantou County at the center of quake-prone Taiwan. The earthquake caused considerable damage: over 2,000 people died and just under 45,000 houses were destroyed. The quake also devastated a subpopulation of riparian frogs, Rana swinhoana, which had been under scientific study for three years prior. This devastation allowed scientists the opportunity to study the population changes in a species affected suddenly and irretrievably by natural disaster.
China uses snake-based earthquake prediction system
(12/27/2006) A province in southern China has come up with a unique way to predict earthquakes: snakes. According to China Daily and as reported by Reuters, the earthquake bureau in Nanning, capital of the Guangxi province, has set up a 24-hour video feed to monitor the behavior of snakes at snake farms. The scientists say that snakes are particularly sensitive to vibrations caused by impending earthquakes.
Some earthquakes may be linked to climate change
(06/28/2006) Scientists say melting glaciers could induce tectonic activity. The reason? As ice melts and waters runs off, tremendous amounts of weight are lifted off of Earth's crust. As the newly freed crust settles back to its original, pre-glacier shape, it can cause seismic plates to slip and stimulate volcanic activity according to research into prehistoric earthquakes and volcanic activity.
March 27, 1964: Magnitude 9.2 quake in Prince William Sound, Alaska, and ensuing tsunami killed 128 people (tsunami 113, earthquake 15) and caused about $311 million in property loss. Anchorage, about 120 kilometers northwest of the epicenter, sustained the most severe property damage.
Dec. 26, 2004: Magnitude 9.1 quake off the Indonesian island of Sumatra triggered a tsunami that killed an estimated 228,000 people in 12 countries.
Aug. 13, 1868: Magnitude 9.0 quake in Arica, Peru (now Chile) triggered tsunamis that killed more than 25,000 people in South America.
Nov. 4, 1952: Magnitude 9.0 earthquake in Kamchatka, USSR triggered a tsunami that caused property damage but no deaths in Hawaii.
Jan. 26, 1700: Magnitude 9.0 earthquake in the Cascadia subduction zone from mid-Vancouver Island in British Columbia along the Pacific Northwest coast.
Nov. 25, 1833: Magnitude 9.0 quake near Sumatra, Indonesia and ensuing tsunami caused extensive loss of life on the island.
Feb. 27, 2010: Magnitude 8.8 in Maule, Chile. Damage and loss of life presently unknown.
Jan. 31, 1906: Magnitude 8.8 off the coast of Ecuador and Colombia generated a strong tsunami that killed 500 to 1500 in coastal areas.
Nov. 1, 1755: Magnitude 8.7 quake in Lisbon, Portugal and ensuing tsunami killed an estimated 60,000 people and destroyed much of Lisbon.
Feb 4, 1965: Magnitude 8.7 quake in the Rat Islands, Alaska caused a 10.7-m-high tsunami on Shemya Island and no loss of life.
Jul. 8, 1730: Magnitude 8.7 quake in Valparasio, Chile, killed at least 3,000 people.
Mar. 28, 2005: Magnitude 8.7 quake quake off northern Sumatra island in Indonesia.
Jan. 23, 1556: 8 magnitude quake in Shaanxi, China, 830,000 deaths.
Jul. 27, 1976: 7.5 magnitude quake in Tangshan, China, 255,000-655,000 deaths
Aug. 8, 1138: Quake near Syria, Aleppo killed 230,000.
Dec. 26, 2004: Magnitude 9.1 quake off Sumatra killed 227,898 people.
Jan. 12, 2010: Magnitude 7.0 quake near Haiti killed 222,521 people (official estimate).
The most destructive earthquakes on record
Abbreviated table from USGS
Listed in order of greatest number of deaths
The most destructive earthquakes on record
Abbreviated table from USGS
Listed in order of greatest number of deaths
Date Location Deaths Magnitude Comments
1556 01 23 Shaanxi (Shensi), China 830,000 ~8 The earthquake occurred near Huaxian, Shaanxi (formerly Shensi), China, about 50 miles (80 km) east-northeast of Xi'an, the capital of Shaanxi. More than 830,000 people were killed.
1976 07 27 Tangshan, China 255,000 (official) 7.5 Official casualty figure is 255,000 deaths. Estimated death toll as high as 655,000. 799,000 injured and extensive damage in the Tang-Shan area. Damage extended as far as Beijing. This is probably the greatest death toll from an earthquake in the last four centuries, and the second greatest in recorded history.
1138 08 09 Syria, Aleppo 230000
2004 12 26 Sumatra 227,898 9.1 This is the third largest earthquake in the world since 1900 and is the largest since the 1964 Prince William Sound, Alaska earthquake. In total, 227,898 people were killed or were missing and presumed dead and about 1.7 million people were displaced by the earthquake and subsequent tsunami in 14 countries in South Asia and East Africa. (In January 2005, the death toll was 286,000. In April 2005, Indonesia reduced its estimate for the number missing by over 50,000.)
2010 01 12 Haiti region 222,521 7.0 According to official estimates, 222,517 people killed, 300,000 injured, 1.1 million displaced, 97,294 houses destroyed and 188,383 damaged in the Port-au-Prince area and in much of southern Haiti. At least 4 people killed by a local tsunami in the Petit Paradis area near Leogane. Tsunami waves were also reported at Jacmel, Les Cayes, Petit Goave, Leogane, Luly and Anse-a-Galets. The tsunami had recorded wave heights (peak-to-trough) of 12 cm at Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic and 2 cm at Christiansted, US Virgin Islands.
856 12 22 Iran, Damghan 200,000
1920 12 16 Haiyuan, Ningxia (Ning-hsia), China 200,000 7.8 Total destruction (XII - the maximum intensity on the Mercalli scale) in the Lijunbu-Haiyuan-Ganyanchi area. Over 73,000 people were killed in Haiyuan County. A landslide buried the village of Sujiahe in Xiji County. More than 30,000 people were killed in Guyuan County. Nearly all the houses collapsed in the cities of Longde and Huining. Damage (VI-X) occurred in 7 provinces and regions, including the major cities of Lanzhou, Taiyuan, Xi'an, Xining and Yinchuan. 310,92,316 ]
893 03 23 Iran, Ardabil 150000
1923 09 01 Kanto (Kwanto), Japan 142,800 7.9 Extreme destruction in the Tokyo - Yokohama area from the earthquake and subsequent firestorms, which burned about 381,000 of the more than 694,000 houses that were partially or completely destroyed. Although often known as the Great Tokyo Earthquake (or the Great Tokyo Fire), the damage was apparently most severe at Yokohama. Damage also occurred on the Boso and Izu Peninsulas and on O-shima. ]
1948 10 05 Ashgabat (Ashkhabad), Turkmenistan (Turkmeniya, USSR) 110,000 7.3 Extreme damage in Ashgabat (Ashkhabad) and nearby villages, where almost all brick buildings collapsed, concrete structures were heavily damaged and freight trains were derailed. Damage and casualties also occurred in the Darreh Gaz area, Iran. Surface rupture was observed both northwest and southeast of Ashgabat. Many sources list the casualty total at 10,000, but a news release on 9 Dec 1988 advised that the correct death toll was 110,000. ]
1290 09 27 China, Chihli 100,000
2008 05 12 Eastern Sichuan, China 87,587 7.9 At least 69,195 people killed, 374,177 injured and 18,392 missing and presumed dead in the Chengdu-Lixian-Guangyuan area. More than 45.5 million people in 10 provinces and regions were affected. At least 15 million people were evacuated from their homes and more than 5 million were left homeless. An estimated 5.36 million buildings collapsed and more than 21 million buildings were damaged in Sichuan and in parts of Chongqing, Gansu, Hubei, Shaanxi and Yunnan. The total economic loss was estimated at 86 billion US dollars. Beichuan, Dujiangyan, Wuolong and Yingxiu were almost completely destroyed. Landslides and rockfalls damaged or destroyed several mountain roads and railways and buried buildings in the Beichuan-Wenchuan area, cutting off access to the region for several days. At least 700 people were buried by a landslide at Qingchuan. Landslides also dammed several rivers, creating 34 barrier lakes which threatened about 700,000 people downstream. A train was buried by a landslide near Longnan, Gansu. At least 2,473 dams sustained some damage and more than 53,000 km of roads and 48,000 km of tap water pipelines were damaged.
2005 10 08 Pakistan 86,000 7.6 At least 86,000 people killed, more than 69,000 injured and extensive damage in northern Pakistan. The heaviest damage occurred in the Muzaffarabad area, Kashmir where entire villages were destroyed and at Uri where 80 percent of the town was destroyed. At least 32,335 buildings collapsed in Anantnag, Baramula, Jammu and Srinagar, Kashmir. Buildings collapsed in Abbottabad, Gujranwala, Gujrat, Islamabad, Lahore and Rawalpindi, Pakistan. Maximum intensity VIII. Felt (VII) at Topi; (VI) at Islamabad, Peshawar and Rawalpindi; (V) at Faisalabad and Lahore. Felt at Chakwal, Jhang, Sargodha and as far as Quetta. At least 1,350 people killed and 6,266 injured in India. Felt (V) at Chandigarh and New Delhi; (IV) at Delhi and Gurgaon, India.
1667 11 Caucasia, Shemakha 80,000
1727 11 18 Iran, Tabriz 77,000
1908 12 28 Messina, Italy 72,000 7.2 Over 40% of the population of Messina and more than 25% of Reggio di Calabria killed by the earthquake and tsunami, as well as by fires in some parts of Messina. Casualty toll is based on census data 1901-1911, some estimates are as high as 110,000. Severe damage in large parts of Calabria and Sicily. Felt throughout Sicily and north to Naples and Campobasso. Also felt on Malta, in Montenegro and Albania and on the Ionian Islands. Tsunami heights of 6-12 m (20-39 ft) observed on the coast of Sicily south of Messina and heights of 6-10 m (20-33 ft) observed along the coast of Calabria. Aftershocks continued into 1913. [ 301,299,A-75 ]
1970 05 31 Chimbote, Peru 70,000 7.9 About 50,000 people were killed - 20,000 missing and presumed dead - and 150,000 injured in Ancash and La Libertad Departments from the earthquake and a catastrophic debris avalanche of rock, ice and mud which buried the town of Yungay, which had a population of about 20,000.
1755 11 01 Portugal, Lisbon 70,000 8.7 This earthquake occurred on All Saint's Day while many of the 250,000 inhabitants of Lisbon were in Church. Stone buildings swayed violently and then collapsed on the population. Many who sought safety on the river front were drowned by a large tsunami. Fire ravaged the city. One quarter of Lisbon's population perished. This earthquake had a profound effect on the intellectual outlook of Europe.
1693 01 11 Italy, Sicily 60,000 7.5
1268 Asia Minor, Silicia 60,000
1990 06 20 Western Iran 40,000 to 50,000 7.4 Estimated 40,000 to 50,000 people killed, more than 60,000 injured, 400,000 or more homeless and extensive damage and landslides in the Rasht-Qazvin-Zanjan area, Iran. Nearly all buildings were destroyed in the Rudbar-Manjil area. Substantial damage occurred as far away as Khalkhal and Now Shahr and slight damage occurred at Tehran. Felt in most of northwestern Iran, including Arak, Bakhtaran and Tabriz. Slight damage also occurred in southern Azerbaijan, USSR.
1783 02 04 Italy, Calabria 50,000
NOTE: Some sources list an earthquake that killed 300,000 people in Calcutta, India, on October 11, 1737.
Recent studies indicate that these casualties were most likely due to a cyclone, not an earthquake.
(Source: The 1737 Calcutta Earthquake and Cyclone Evaluated by Roger Bilham, BSSA, Vol. 84, No. 5, 1650-1657, October 1994)
Data from USGS and compiled from several sources.
Names in paraenthesis () indicate what the town / region was called at the time of the earthquake.