Updated December 19th, 2023 at 09:23 IST

Top 5 Most Powerful Earthquakes in Recorded History

Quakes' might measured in Richter scale. Depth, location, and geology influence impact. Shallow ones in populated areas can be catastrophic.

Reported by: Garvit Parashar
Top 5 Most Powerful Earthquakes | Image:Representative image by ANI

At least 111 people lost their lives as a powerful earthquake struck northwest China, causing building collapses in Gansu province and Haidong city, Qinghai province. State media reported approximately 100 deaths and numerous injuries in Gansu, with an additional 11 fatalities and 100 injuries in Haidong. The US Geological Survey recorded the magnitude as 5.9, while Xinhua reported it as 6.2, causing widespread impact, felt even in Xi'an, over 570 kilometers away. Rescue efforts are underway as aftershocks continue, emphasizing the urgent need to dig through the rubble to save lives.

Earthquakes pack a punch, and some have etched their names in history with unforgettable force. Magnitude is key, measured by the Richter scale—a logarithmic scale where each whole number jump signifies a tenfold increase in ground motion. A magnitude 7 quake is ten times mightier than a 6, and a magnitude 8 is a staggering hundred times stronger!


Yet, it's not just strength that matters; depth, location, and geology also shape an earthquake's impact. A deep-sea quake might go unnoticed on land, while a shallow one in a populated area could spell disaster.

Let us look at the worst earthquakes that have caused great damage in the past.


The Great Chilean Earthquake (1960)

The United States Geological Survey (USGS) identifies the 1960 Valdivia Earthquake, also known as the Great Chilean Earthquake, as the strongest earthquake on record. Striking Valdivia in southern Chile on May 22, 1960, with a magnitude of 9.5, it triggered a devastating tsunami that resulted in an estimated 5,700 casualties in Chile alone. The calamity left around two million people homeless and caused damages totaling approximately $550 million. The tsunami also claimed lives in Hawaii, the US West Coast, and Japan.


Great Alaska Earthquake (1964)

The second most powerful earthquake ever recorded, the 9.2-magnitude Great Alaska Earthquake, also known as the Prince William Sound Earthquake or Good Friday Earthquake, shook southern Alaska on March 27, 1964. Lasting about four minutes, it caused widespread damage, especially in the Alaskan capital of Anchorage, with reports of 115 fatalities.. 


Sumatra-Andaman Islands Earthquake (2004)

The Sumatra-Andaman Islands Earthquake, or the Indian Ocean Earthquake, struck off the west coast of Northern Sumatra and holds the grim title of the deadliest earthquake in recorded history. With a magnitude of 9.1, the earthquake triggered a tsunami that claimed the lives of more than 240,000 people across 14 countries in South and Southeast Asia.


Tohoku Earthquake (2011)

On March 11, 2011, Japan experienced a powerful undersea earthquake below the North Pacific, approximately 130 kilometers east of Sendai city in the Tohoku region. The resulting tsunami, with waves reaching up to 40 meters, caused over 15,500 fatalities and left more than 450,000 people homeless, as reported by National Geographic.


Kamchatka Earthquake, Russia (1952)

The Kamchatka Earthquake of 1952, with a magnitude of 9.0, triggered the Kamchatka tsunami on November 4, causing widespread destruction in East Russia. The waves, reaching as high as 50 feet, devastated the Kamchatka peninsula and Kuril Islands, resulting in the loss of approximately 15,000 lives.



Understanding the impact of these powerful earthquakes is crucial for better preparedness and mitigation strategies in earthquake-prone regions worldwide.


Published December 19th, 2023 at 09:09 IST