Most powerful earthquake
The largest instrumentally measured
quake is generally acknowledged to be the
Chilean earthquake of 22 May 1960, which
had a magnitude of 9.5 using the moment
magnitude scale and 8.3 using the Richter
scale (
see For the Record
). In Chile, it killed
more than 2,000 people, injured 3,000 more
and left an estimated two million people
homeless. The resultant tsunami (giant wave)
caused great damage and around 200 deaths
thousands of kilometres away in Hawaii,
Japan and on the US west coast.
Deadliest earthquake
of modern times
At 9:53 p.m. (UTC*) on 12 January 2010, a
magnitude-7 earthquake struck with an
epicentre around 25 km (15 miles) west of
the Haitian capital Port-au-Prince. One year
after the disaster, official estimates from
the Haitian government put the number
of people killed by the quake at 316,000,
although other estimates place the death toll
as low as 100,000. Some 1.3 million people
were displaced by the earthquake and 97,294
houses destroyed. Much of Port-au-Prince
was reduced to rubble (
); to this day,
vast numbers of Haitians remain homeless.
* Coordinated Universal Time, the International
Telecommunications Union’s global time standard
strike-slips | fault ruptures | fires | tsunamis
The earliest modern
seismographs were developed
in 1848, but the oldest form
of earthquake-detecting
equipment can be traced
back to
132 in China. The
first device was designed
by the Chinese Astronomer
Royal, Zhang Heng, who built
a 15-cm-tall (6-in) bronze
vessel containing a pendulum.
Ground movement would
cause the pendulum to
dislodge balls, which would
fall into the mouths of bronze
sculptures formed in the
shape of toads, signalling
an earthquake.
First seismograph
Highest estimated death
toll from an earthquake
An estimated 830,000 fatalities
occurred after a prolonged
earthquake (or
) took
place in the Shaanxi, Shanxi
and Henan provinces of China
on 23 January 1556.
Year with the most
major earthquakes
According to data from the
US Geological Survey, Earth
experiences an average of 16 major
earthquakes with a magnitude
of 7 or above each year. Since
long-term records began, around
1900, the year with the most
major quakes was 2010, in which
there were 24 earthquakes with
magnitudes measuring 7 or above.
Worst devastation
caused by a quake
The quake on the
Kanto plain, Japan, on
1 September 1923 had a
magnitude of 7.9. In Tokyo
and Yokohama, 575,000
dwellings were destroyed.
The official total of persons killed
and missing in what was called
(“great quake”)
and resultant fires is 142,800.
Most powerful
strike-slip earthquake
At 8:30 a.m. (UTC) on 11 April 2012,
an 8.6-magnitude earthquake
struck in the eastern Indian Ocean.
Fears that the three-minute event
would cause a major tsunami
were unfounded as the quake was
of a strike-slip nature, in which
the Earth’s crust was displaced
horizontally either side of the fault,
rather than upwards or downwards.
Longest earthquake
The Great Sumatra-Andaman
earthquake in the Indian Ocean
on 26 December 2004 lasted for
between 500 and 600 seconds.
It had a moment magnitude of 9.1.
These results were announced in
the journal
in May 2005.
The event also gave rise to
longest earthquake fault
rupture ever measured
in terms
of distance. The rupture occurred
along an estimated 1,200–
1,300 km (720–780 miles)
16 Dec 1920:
Haiyuan, China
Death toll: 200,000
Magnitude: 7.8
1 Sep 1923:
Kanto, Japan
Death toll: 142,800
Magnitude: 7.9
27 Jul 1976:
Tangshan, China
Death toll: 242,769
Magnitude: 7.5
31 May 1970:
Chimbote, Peru
Death toll: 70,000
Magnitude: 7.9
5 Oct 1948: Ashgabat, Turkmen
Soviet Socialist Republic
Death toll: 110,000
Magnitude: 7.3
DEADLIEST EARTHQUAKES of the past 100 years
Source: US Geological Survey
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