The 10 Biggest Earthquakes in History

Few events are as terrifying and humbling as natural disasters.

Their widespread destruction and destruction reminds us that no matter how far we are in terms of civilization, humans can still control nature.

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

Currently, there are no known faults large enough to cause an earthquake with a perfect magnitude 10 – but some of the ten largest earthquakes ever recorded come very close.

Let’s take a look at these epic epic disasters, organized by magnitude.

Nias shook

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

Most of the people who surrendered were asleep when the earthquake hit, or were unable to escape to the upper floors of the buildings.

The earthquake itself lasted for about two minutes and caused 51 earthquakes to occur within the next 8 hours alone.

The same earthquake that destroyed Nias also affected the island of Simeulu.

Location: Assam, Tibet

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

A massive earthquake occurred as a result of the violent shaking, draining rivers until they overflowed and caused even more damage.

The Assam earthquake was the largest earthquake on record caused by converging continental plates instead of subduction in the ocean.

Rat Islands shook

Location: Aleutian Islands, Alaska

Accidents: 0 reported

While this earthquake was rather costly, causing an estimated $10,000 in property damage, it has a silver lining in that it resulted in no known injuries or deaths.

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

The Aleutian arc where the North American and Pacific crustal midpoints has proven to be one of the most active seismic regions in the world.

Location: Ecuador and Colombia

This earthquake caused a devastating tsunami that later claimed many lives.

The greatest losses and damages are located along the coast between Micay, Colombia, and Río Verde, Ecuador.

Most of the data about this earthquake was collected by observing and analyzing the waveforms.

This earthquake was spawned on the South American Plate and the Nazca Plate, creating a rupture zone over 350 km long.

Maule shook

Location: International Bio-Bio, Chile

The epicenter of this devastating earthquake was located about 200 miles southwest of Santiago, the capital of Chile, while its shock was felt as far away as Buenos Aires, Argentina.

The difference between the South American Plate and the Nazca Plate that caused the earthquake was later attributed to the build-up of water pressure.

The Maule earthquake caused extensive damage to local buildings and infrastructure, having a significant impact on the local economy while business and rescue missions were disrupted.

Location: Kamchatka, Russia

This earthquake caused the infamous Kamchatka Peninsula Tsunami, which produced waves of up to 50 feet.

The earthquake originates from the Okhotsk Plate, where the Pacific Plate subducts it, along with many nearby volcanoes.

The Hawaiian Islands suffered the most from the occurrence of this earthquake outside the area where it occurred, experiencing about $17 million in losses.

Midway Island, in particular, was filled with water that filled the streets.

Tohoku shook

Location: Sendai, Japan

The resulting tsunami from the Tohoku Earthquake flooded over 200 square miles of land along the coast of Honshu with waves that reached as high as 12-story buildings.

Perhaps the most terrifying effect of this natural disaster was the level-7 nuclear meltdowns at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant.

With damages reaching $235 billion, this tsunami is estimated to be the costliest natural disaster in history.

About 47,000 people had to evacuate following the terrible events at Fukushima Daiichi.

Sumatra-Andaman Islands quake

Location: Sumatra, Indonesia

Location: Sumatra, Indonesia

Known as the Indian Ocean Earthquake, the Sumatra-Andaman Islands Earthquake displaced a lot of water to create the Indian Ocean Tsunami, which caused up to $10 billion in regional losses.

The waves from this terrible natural disaster have reached such a level that they are causing damage all the way across the sea on the East African coast.

Scientists estimate that the Indian Ocean earthquake has released the same amount of energy that the entire United States uses for eleven days.

Great Alaskan Sound (Prince William Sound)

Location: Southern Alaska

Also known as Alaska’s Good Friday Earthquake, this massive earthquake triggered several tsunamis that flooded several coastal towns, including one that reached about 200 feet in height.

The shock waves also caused several devastating earthquakes in Anchorage.

The impact of the Great Alaskan Earthquake was so intense that it shook the Space Needle 1,200 miles from Seattle, Washington.

16 of the deaths from this earthquake occurred on the coasts of California and Oregon where tsunami waves arrived to cause further destruction.

Valdivia Incident (Great Chilean Incident)

Rating: 9.5

Rating: 9.5

Rating: 9.5

Rating: 9.5

Rating: 9.5

Rating: 9.5

Rating: 9.5

Rating: 9.5

Rating: 9.5

Rating: 9.5

Location: Bio-Bio, Chile

Injuries: 6,000

Injuries: 6,000

Injuries: 6,000

Injuries: 6,000

Injuries: 6,000

Injuries: 6,000

Injuries: 6,000

Injuries: 6,000

Injuries: 6,000

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

Like many other nearby earthquakes, the Great Chilean Earthquake was caused by the Nazca Plate pushing its way further down the South American Plate.

The rupture area was about 621 miles offshore, and tsunami waves affected coastal areas such as Japan and New Zealand.

They named this event after Valdivia, the city that was most affected by the natural disaster and its aftermath.

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