“The 10 Biggest Earthquakes in History”

Few events are as terrifying and humiliating as natural disasters.

Their widespread devastation and destruction reminds us that no matter how far we have come in terms of civilization, humans still cannot control nature.

Earthquakes occur as a result of the movement of the Earth’s tectonic plates.

Currently, no known fault is large enough to cause a full magnitude 10 earthquake – but some of the 10 largest earthquakes ever recorded come very close.

Let’s take a look at these epic-scale disasters, ranked by size.

Nias Earthquake

This earthquake occurred on the island of Nias and killed almost half the population of Gunungsitoli, the largest city on the island.

Many of the people who died were sleeping during the earthquake or were unable to escape from the upper floors of the buildings.

The earthquake itself lasted about two minutes and produced 51 aftershocks in the next 8 hours alone.

The same earthquake that devastated Nias also hit Simeulu Island.

Location: Assam, Tibet

Just three years after India gained independence from Great Britain, tragedy struck in the form of an earthquake with an epicenter 20 miles below the Tibetan town of Rami.

The violent shaking triggered massive landslides that dammed the rivers until the water rushed in and caused even more damage.

The Assam earthquake was the largest earthquake ever recorded to be caused by convergence of continental plates instead of oceanic subduction.

Earthquake on Rat Islands

Location: Aleutian Islands, Alaska

Victims: 0 reported

Although this earthquake was quite costly, causing about $10,000 in property damage, it had a bright side in that there were no known injuries or deaths.

Most of the damage was actually caused by the resulting tsunami rather than the earthquake itself, with tsunami warnings issued along the entire stretch of coast between Nikolski and Attu.

The Aleutian arc, where the North American and Pacific crusts meet, has proven to be one of the most seismically active areas in the world.

Location: Ecuador and Colombia

This earthquake triggered a devastating tsunami that claimed many more lives.

The greatest loss and damage occurred along the coast between Micay in Colombia and Río Verde in Ecuador.

Most of the information about this earthquake was obtained by observing and analyzing the waveforms.

This earthquake triggered over the South American plate and the Nazca plate, creating a rift zone more than 350 miles long.

Maula earthquake

Location: Bio-Bio at sea, Chile

The epicenter of this devastating earthquake was about 320 kilometers southwest of Santiago, the capital of Chile, and its tremors were felt as far away as Buenos Aires, Argentina.

The rift between the South American plate and the Nazca plate that caused the earthquake was later attributed to a buildup of water pressure.

The earthquake in Maule town caused extensive damage to surrounding buildings and infrastructure and had a major impact on the local economy, while shops and rescue missions were disrupted.

Location: Kamchatka, Russia

This earthquake caused the infamous tsunami on the Kamchatka Peninsula, which devastated the local population with waves up to 50 feet high.

The earthquake originated above the Okhotsk plate, where it was brought down by the Pacific plate with many volcanoes in the immediate vicinity.

The Hawaiian Islands suffered the most from this earthquake outside of the local area where it occurred, sustaining approximately $17 million in losses.

Midway Island in particular was overwhelmed by water flooding the streets.

Earthquake in Tohoku

Location: Sendai, Japan

The tsunami triggered by the Tohoku earthquake inundated more than 200 square kilometers of land along the coast of Honshu with waves reaching up to 12-story buildings.

Perhaps the most terrifying effect of this natural disaster was the level 7 nuclear accidents at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant.

With damages reaching $235 billion, this tsunami was rated as the costliest natural disaster in history.

After the terrible events in Fukushima Daiichi, about 47,000 people had to be evacuated.

Sumatra-Andaman Islands earthquake

Location: Sumatra, Indonesia

Location: Sumatra, Indonesia

The Sumatra-Andaman Islands earthquake, commonly known as the Indian Ocean earthquake, displaced huge volumes of water and caused a tsunami in the Indian Ocean that caused an estimated $10 billion in local losses.

The waves from this terrible natural disaster reached so far that they caused damage across the ocean on the coast of East Africa.

Scientists estimate that the earthquake in the Indian Ocean released the same amount of energy as the entire United States consumes in 11 days.

The Great Alaska Earthquake (Prince William Sound)

Location: Southern Alaska

Also known as the Alaskan Good Friday earthquake, this powerful earthquake catalyzed several tsunamis that flooded several coastal cities, including one that reached a height of more than 200 meters.

The shock waves also caused a series of devastating landslides in Anchorage.

The impact of the Great Alaska Earthquake actually reached so far that it shook the Space Needle 1,200 miles away in Seattle, Washington.

The 16 deaths caused by this earthquake occurred on the coasts of California and Oregon, where tsunami waves reached and caused further destruction.

Valdivia Earthquake (Great Chile Earthquake)

Magnitude: 9.5

Magnitude: 9.5

Magnitude: 9.5

Magnitude: 9.5

Magnitude: 9.5

Magnitude: 9.5

Magnitude: 9.5

Magnitude: 9.5

Magnitude: 9.5

Magnitude: 9.5

Location: Bio-Bio, Chile

Casualties: 6,000

Casualties: 6,000

Casualties: 6,000

Casualties: 6,000

Casualties: 6,000

Casualties: 6,000

Casualties: 6,000

Casualties: 6,000

Casualties: 6,000

The Valdivia earthquake was the largest recorded earthquake in the world.

Like several other nearby earthquakes, the Great Chile earthquake was triggered by the Nazca plate subducting further beneath the South American plate.

The rupture zone covered nearly 621 miles of coastline, and tsunami waves hit coastlines as far away as Japan and New Zealand.

This earthquake was named after Valdivia, the town most affected by the natural disaster and its aftermath.

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