10 Most Devastating Earthquakes of All Time

1960 Valdivia earthquake: The Great Chilean Earthquake  on May 22, 1960. It is the most powerful earthquake ever recorded, rated at 9.5 magnitude. It caused tsunamis in Chile, Hawaii, Japan, the Philippines, eastern New Zealand, southeast Australia, and Alaska. Estimates of the death toll range from 2,231 to 6,000. The monetary cost ranges between 400 to 800 million US dollars, or 2.9 to 5.8 billion in 2010 dollars.

2004 Indian Ocean earthquake: The 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake had an epicenter off the west coast of Sumatra, Indonesia, and caused devastating tsunamis along the Indian Ocean, including Indonesia, Sri Lanka, India, and Thailand. Its magnitude was between 9.1 and 9.3. It is one of the deadliest natural disasters in recorded history, killing nearly 230,000 people.

1964 Alaska earthquake: The 1964 Alaska earthquake is known as the Great Alaska Earthquake. It hit south-central Alaska at a magnitude of 9.2. The earthquake lasted nearly 5 minutes, and is the most powerful recorded earthquake in US and North American history. There were 131 deaths directly caused by the earthquake and its resulting tsunamis.

Kamchatka earthquakes: In 1737 and 1952, two Kamchatka earthquakes occurred around the same location off the Russian Kamchatka Peninsula. The 1737 earthquake is estimated at a magnitude of 8.3, and 1952′s at 9.0. The 1952 earthquake caused a series of tsunamis around the Kamchatka Peninsula, Kuril Islands, and Hawaii. Damages are estimated around $1 million. No human casualties were reported.

1868 Arica Earthquake: The 1868 Arica Earthquake occurred near Arica, which was part of Peru at the time. The earthquake caused tsunamis in the Pacific Ocean, causing damage to Peru, Hawaii, and New Zealand’s Charham Islands. Arica, Tacna, Ilo, Torata, Mollendo, Iquique, and Arequipa were almost completely destructed, with an estimated 25,000 casualties. The earthquake has an estimated magnitude range from 8.5 to 9.0, with about 400 aftershocks recorded.

1700 Cascadia Earthquake: This earthquake occurred in the Cascadia subduction zone in 1700 with a magnitude between 8.7 and 9.2. It caused a tsunami on the coast of Japan, and is possibly linked to the Bonneville slide. Evidence of this earthquake includes records of the Japanese tsunami not tied to any other Pacific Rim earthquake, and studies of tree rings that show red cedar trees with outermost growth rings formed in 1699. The Cascadia earthquake is believed to have a magnitude of 9.

1833 Sumatra Earthquake: The 1833 Sumatra earthquake had an estimated magnitude between 8.8 and 9.2, estimated using uplift from coral microatolls. This earthquake caused a large tsunami on the island of Sumatra between Pariaman to Bengkulu, and possibly damage in the Seychelles. Although there are no records of loss of life, they are described as "numerous."

2010 Chile Earthquake: The 2010 Chilean earthquake came in at a magnitude of 8.8 for three minutes. Shaking and tremors were felt in much of Chile and South America, including the cities of Talcahuano, Lota, San Antonio, Arauco, Chiguayente, Cañete, and Buenos Aires. Tsunami warnings were issued in 53 countries, and a tsunami was recorded in the sea at Valparaiso, Chile. As of February 28, 2010, 723 deaths were confirmed, with many more reported missing. This earthquake was so powerful, it is estimated that it shortened day lengths by 1.26 microseconds, and altered Earth’s axis rotation by 3 inches.

1906 Ecuador–Colombia Earthquake: Ecuador’s 1906 earthquake had a magnitude of 8.8 off the coast of Ecuador and Colombia. It generated a strong tsunami that killed between 500 and 1500 people in Hawaii, arriving in Hilo and Honolulu, and Kahului.

1965 Rat Islands, Alaska Earthquake: This earthquake occurred in one of the Earth’s most active seismic zones. The 1965 earthquake measured 8.7 magnitude. It caused cracks in wood buildings and runways. There was a tsunami 10.7 meters high on Shemya Island. There was a loss of an estimated $10,000 on Amchitka Island, and at least one recorded aftershock.

 

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