10 Most Powerful Earthquakes In The World’s History

Earthquake occurs when energy releases suddenly from Earth’s crust which is known to create seismic waves. The seismic activity or seismicity of area is known to be the type, frequency, and size of earthquakes over the time period. It is very difficult to determine the largest earthquakes when it comes to frequency. Following is the list of well-known strongest earthquakes in the world history estimated or measured on Richter scale or moment magnitude scale of above 8.5.

Top 10 World’s Strongest Earthquakes in History

10. 1762 Arakan earthquake

Magnitude – 8.8, Deaths – 200, Date – April 2, 1762

At around 17:00 Hrs Local Time on April 2, 1762, with epicenter somewhere from Chittagong coast (new Bangladesh) to Arakan in new Burma, the 1762 Arakan Earthquake took place. The estimated moment magnitude of earthquake is around 8.8 on and maximum intensity of Extreme XI on Mercalli intensity. It caused a tsunami in the Bay of Bengal and death toll raised 200 people. The earthquake was linked with specific areas of both subsidence and uplift. At Chittagong, earthquake lasted for around 4 minutes. The tsunami was reported to be occurred around northeastern coast in the Bay of Bengal from Kolkata to Dhaka.

9. 869 Sanriku Earthquake

Magnitude – 8.4–9.0, Deaths – 1000, Date – July 9, 869

869 Sanriku Earthquake

The 869 Sanriku Earthquake along with tsunami hit somewhere in Sendai in the northern region of Honshu on July 9. With the estimated moment magnitude of 8.4, the earthquake caused 1000 deaths due to the tsunami. Despite having less reliable sources, there are legends related to earthquake from Tohuku to Boso Peninsula. The area where earthquake occurred, there was a battle between Imperial Court of Japan and indigenous locals of Tohuku, Emishi. The tsunami brought huge flooding in Sendai plains, and destroyed the Tagojo town.  The extent of flooding due to the tsunami has been mapped with the deposits of sand.

8. 1965 Rat Islands Earthquake

Magnitude – 8.7, Date – February 4, 1965

1965 Rat Islands Earthquake

When this giant earthquake caused tsunami of around 10 meters (30 feet), Alaska had been the state for just 7 years. Despite its giant size, the earthquake caused little damage because it hit the top of Aleutian Islands. The Rat Islands, Alaska earthquake occurred at around 05:01 UTC with the magnitude of around 8.7 and caused around 10m tsunami on Shemya Island. It caused very low damage. On Amchitka Island, the flooding caused $10000 of damage from the tsunami. Earthquake caused minor damage on both Shemya and Attu islands as cracks on runways.

7. 1700 Cascadia earthquake

Magnitude – 8.7–9.2, Date – January 26, 1700

1700 Cascadia earthquake

The 1700 Cascadia Earthquake occurred on January 26, 1700 along Cascadia Subduction Zone with magnitude of 8.7-9.2 on moment magnitude scale. This mega-thrust earthquake affected Juan de Fuca Plate under the Pacific Ocean and covered from Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada along Pacific Northwest to the northern California. The length of fault rupture was around 620 miles (1000 km) and 20 meters of average slip. It is suggested that this earthquake occurred at around 21:00 on January 26, 1700. For the region, there are no written records from the time. It was noted from Japanese records exist basically in Iwate prefecture, in communities like Kuwagasaki, Tsugaruishi and Otsuchi.

6. 1868 Arica Earthquake

Magnitude – 8.5–9.0, Date – 13 August 1868

1868 Arica Earthquake

On August 13, 1868, the Arica Earthquake was occurred around Arica (then Peru) at 21:30 UTC. The magnitude was estimated at around 8.5-9.0. Several tsunamis were produced in the Pacific Ocean due to the earthquake, recorded in Japan, Hawaii, New Zealand and Australia. The earthquake brought almost total damage in southern regions of Peru, including Tacna, Arica, Mollendo, Moquegua, Iquique, Ilo, Arequipa and Torata, and caused around 25000 casualties.

5. 1952 Kamchatka Earthquake

Magnitude 9.0, Date 4th November 1952

1952 Kamchatka Earthquake

With magnitude 9.0, it was the first recorded earthquake in the world of its kinds. It hit off the eastern coast of Kamchatka, Russia. It brought 13m (43 ft) tsunami. The major earthquake hit at 16:58 GMT on 4th November, 1952. Initially, it assigned 8.2 of magnitude. But it revised to 9.0 and lasted for around 17 minutes. A large tsunami caused deaths and destruction around the Kuril Island and Kamchatka peninsula. It also struck Hawaii and caused damages estimated to US$1 million and losses of livestock. However, it recorded no human casualties.

4. 2011 Tohuku Tsunami and Earthquake, Japan

Deaths – 15870, Magnitude – 9.0 Mw, Date – March 11, 2011

2011 Tohoku Tsunami and Earthquake, Japan

With magnitude of 9.03, Great East Japan Earthquake was occurred off the coast of Japan. This mega-thrust undersea earthquake occurred at 05:46 UTC (14:46 JST) on March 11, 2011 Friday and the epicenter was located around 80 km east of Oshika peninsula and hypocenter at the depth of around 32 km underwater. It was the most powerful earthquake known to hit Japan ever. It is one of the 5 most powerful quakes in the world. It was also a deadly earthquake which caused 15,870 deaths and some nuclear reactors were also damaged. It was the largest earthquake ever in Japan. Over 6114 people were injured and 2814 people were missing around 20 prefectures along with 129,225 buildings were completely collapsed and 254,204 buildings were partly collapsed and 691,766 buildings were half damaged.

3. 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami and Earthquake

Magnitude – 9.1, Deaths 227,898, Date – December 26, 2004

2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami and Earthquake

It was a mega-thrust undersea earthquake occurred on December 26, 2004 at 00:58:53 UTC and the epicenter was located off west of Sumatra, Indonesia. Subduction caused the earthquake and it triggered several devastating tsunamis along most landmasses covering Indian Ocean and killed up to 230,000 lives in 14 nations and affected the coastal families with 98 ft (30m) high waves.  It was recorded as the deadliest natural disasters ever in history Indonesia was vastly affected nation, then Sri Lanka, Thailand and India. It caused more deaths than other earthquakes in history.

2. 1964 Great Alaskan Earthquake

Magnitude – 9.2, Date – March 27, 1964, Deaths 141

1964 Great Alaskan Earthquake

Started at 5:36 PM AST on March 27, 1964 Good Friday, Alaskan Earthquake hit around south central Alaska. This mega-thrust earthquake caused 143 deaths, collapsed buildings and ground fissures. In the history of North America and the US, it was the most powerful earthquake recorded ever, and second most threatening earthquake ever estimated by seismograph.

1. 1960 Valdivia Earthquake

Magnitude 9.5, Date May 22, 1960, Deaths – 1655

1960 Valdivia Earthquake

The Great Chilean Earthquake or Valdivia Earthquake occurred on May 22, 1960 and it is recorded as the most powerful earthquake ever in the world history which is rated 9.5 on moment magnitude. It killed around 1655 people, 3000 injured, damage of $550 million and 2,000,000 people were homeless in Southern Chile.