Science

Top 11 Worst Earthquakes in History

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An earthquake (also known as a quake, tremor or temblor) is the perceptible shaking of the surface of the Earth, which can be violent enough to destroy major buildings and kill thousands of people. Here is a list of the world’s deadliest earthquakes which have caused immense loss of life and property

Tohoku Earthquake 2011

Tohoku Earthquake 2011

The first earthquake to make this list was the Tohoku earthquake. On March 11, 2011, Japan’s eastern coast of Tohoku was struck by a 9.03 magnitude earthquake. It did not only cause the most property damage out of those on this list, but it was also the strongest.  It cost $235 billion of property damage. The earthquake resulted in a tsunami that destroyed property across Japan and caused over 15,000 deaths, left over 6000 people injured and many people missing. 

Almost 129,225 buildings were destroyed by the earthquake and the tsunami caused widespread destruction of roads, railways. Significant damage was done to four major nuclear power stations. This was the most difficult crisis Japan has ever faced after World War II. Debris from the tsunami is still being found as far away as the United States as it was blown into the Pacific Ocean and has been making its way across. 

Great Hanshin Earthquake 1996

Great Hanshin Earthquake 1996
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On 17 Jan, 1995, in the southern part of Hyōgo Prefecture, Japan was struck by 6.8 magnitude earthquake. The Great Hanshin earthquake or Kobe earthquake killed around 6,400 people, but left over 300,000 homeless.

The tremors lasted for approximately 20 seconds and caused a total of $100 billion dollars of property damage, almost 2.5% of Japan’s GDP at that time.  This was Japan’s worst earthquake in the 20th century after the Great Kantō earthquake in 1923.

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Sichuan Earthquake 2008

Sichuan Earthquake 2008

The Great Sichuan Earthquake was the deadliest earthquake to hit china after the 1976 Tangshan earthquake. On May 12, 2008 Sichuan province of China was hit by an earthquake which was registered 8.0 on the rector scale, the third highest on this list.

It is also known as the Wenchuan earthquake after the epicenter Wenchuan County, Sichuan. Despite lasting only for two minutes the Sichuan Earthquake caused over 69 thousand deaths and $75 billion dollars in property damage. 

Millions were left homeless, possibly as many as 11 million people found themselves without homes. Several strong aftershocks continued to hit the area which caused further loss of life and property.

Christchurch Earthquake 2011

Christchurch Earthquake 2011
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On 22 Feb, 2011, a 6.3 magnitude earthquake hit New Zealand’s second largest city, Christchurch.  It caused 185 deaths, but 40 billion dollars’ worth of property damage was estimated and the Christchurch Earthquake is considered to be one of the country’s worst disasters. 

It is often thought that this earthquake was actually an aftershock of a stronger earthquake elsewhere in New Zealand; it did more damage than the original quake.

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Chile Earthquake 2010

Chile Earthquake 2010
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Just off shore of central Chile on 27 February 2010 an earthquake of 8.8 magnitude struck and intense shaking lasted for three minutes. The 2010 Chile Earthquake was felt in six Chilean regions from Valparaíso in the north to Araucanía in the south.  

The Chilean government says that 525 people lost their lives and about 9% of the regional population lost their homes. The earthquake caused a tsunami which caused widespread damage.

The earthquake created a complete blackout which affected around 93% of the population for several days.  The exact total of the damage done by this earthquake is unknown but it is estimated to be between 15-30 billion dollars.

Northridge Earthquake 1994

Northridge Earthquake 1994
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The 1994 Northridge earthquake occurred on 17 Jan and the epicenter was Reseda, north central of San Fernando Valley near Los Angeles. Intensity of earthquake was registered to be 6.7 magnitudes.

The Earthquake took the lives of 57 people, nearly 5000 people were injured. The damage totals reached $20 billion dollars, it is considered to be the costliest ever natural disaster in US history. People as far away as Las Vegas reported feeling tremors, 220 miles away from the epicenter.

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Northern Italy Earthquakes 2012

Northern Italy Earthquakes 2012
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Unlike the other earthquakes that made this list, 2012 Northern Italy Earthquakes were actually a series of earthquakes in the same area. Northern Italy was hit by two major earthquakes in May 2012 causing death of 27 people and widespread damage. On 20 May, the first earthquake with a magnitude of 5.9 hit the city of Bologna. The epicenter was between Finale Emilia, Bondeno and Sermide. Two aftershocks of 5.2 occurred after one hour and eleven hours of the main quake.

Just after nine days, on 29 May, the same area was hit by another earthquake of 5.8 magnitude causing more deaths and widespread damage particularly to buildings already weakened by previous quakes. Due to these series of earthquakes property damage of around 13.2 billion dollars’ worth was estimated.

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Loma Prieta Earthquake 1989

Loma Prieta earthquake occurred in Northern California 1989
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On October 17, 1989, the Loma Prieta earthquake occurred in Northern California and severely shook the San Francisco and Monterey Bay regions. The epicenter was near Loma Prieta peak in the Santa Cruz Mountains. It ended up causing both a tsunami and landslides.  The main earthquake was a 6.9 magnitude earthquake but, two earthquakes proceeded it, a 5.3 magnitude and a 5.4 magnitude quake. 

63 people were killed during this earthquake, thousands of people got injured and widespread property damage. Property damage of around $11 billion dollars’ worth was estimated.

Jiji 921 Earthquake 1999

 Jiji 921 Earthquake 1999

The 921 earthquake occurred in Jiji, Nantou County, Taiwan on 21 September 1999. The 921 earthquake is also known as Jiji earthquake and this Taiwanese earthquake was a measured 7.7 on the Richter scale.

11,305 people got injured and 2,415 people were killed during the earthquake and many buildings were destroyed and damaged.  The total cost of the property damage came out to 10 billion dollars.

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San Francisco Earthquake 1906

San Francisco Californiae earthquake 1906
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This is the oldest earthquake to make this list.  In 1906 an earthquake hit the San Francisco area of California early in the morning on April 18 and caused multiple fires.  The exact magnitude of the earthquake is unknown but it is believed to be between a 7.7 and 7.9 on the scale.  These fires lasted for days and caused as much damage as the earthquake. 

Around 3,000 people died from this earthquake and it is considered to be California’s worst natural disaster. Almost 80% of San Francisco was destroyed. It resulted in 9.5 billion dollars’ worth of damage.

Nepal Earthquake 2015

Gorkha earthquake 2015
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On 25th April, 2015 Nepal witnessed one of history’s worst earthquakes. It is also known as Gorkha earthquake and it was recorded between 7.8 to 8.1 magnitude quake on the Richter scale. The epicenter was village of Barpak, Gorkha district.

Over 8,900 people died in the initial quake and almost 19000 people got injured. Another 125 people are said to have died due to one of its aftershocks. Hundreds of thousands of people were made homeless and many UNSECO World Heritage sites were dashed to rubble.  

It has been the worst natural disaster to strike Nepal since the 1934 Nepal–Bihar earthquake. So far the damage estimate is $5 billion in rebuilding costs.

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