10 Biggest Earthquakes in History

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In this article, we will discuss the 10 biggest earthquakes in history.

An earthquake may be defined as the sudden shock of the earth that emits the energy in the earth’s lithosphere causing the formation of seismic waves.

The earthquake can be caused due to volcanic eruption, moving of tectonic plates, formation of the cave in a small area, or due to explosions. It is determined with the help of a seismograph by Seismometers and is measured on the Richter Magnitude Scale.



  1. Biggest Earthquakes in History  

The list of the 10 biggest earthquakes in history is prepared depending on the magnitude and destruction of the earthquake. The top 10 biggest earthquakes in history are as follows:


10. Sumatra Earthquake (2012)

On the date of 11 April 2012 at 15.38 local time, an Indian Ocean earthquake occurred of magnitude 8.6 undersea near of Indonesian city of Aceh.

Higher authorities were on tsunami call but later canceled. These were unusually powerful intraplate earthquakes and the largest strike-slip earthquake ever measured. It took place in a very remote from a populated location and made no dangerous tsunami (10 cm to 0.8 meter / 3.9 inches to 31.4 inches tsunamis were only measured). 10 deaths and 12 injuries were measured most of these cases caused due to panic and heart attack.


LocationNorthern Sumatra, Indonesia
NameNias Earthquake
Lat.2.09° N
Long.97.11° E



10 Biggest Earthquakes in History


9. Assam-Tibet Earthquake (1950)

On the date of August 15, 1950, Earthquake happened in the Xizang-India border area. The epicenter of the earthquake was near Rima, Tibet. Due to the earthquake, numerous buildings were damaged and between 1500 and 3000 people were found dead.

After the earthquake, large landslides occurred that blocked the Subansiri River. This natural dam that was blocked was removed 8 days later, making a wave of 7 m (23 ft) high which flooded many villages and death of 536 people. The earthquake also made almost 5,000,000 people homeless.


LocationEastern Xizang-India border region
NameAssam, Tibet



10 Biggest Earthquakes in History


8. Rat Islands Earthquake (1965)

The 1965 Rat Islands Earthquake happened at the time of 05:01 UTC, on February 4 (19:01, February 3, in local time). It set off a tsunami of over 10 meters (33 feet) on Shemya Island, Alaska, but thanks to its distant location, caused very little damage.


LocationRat Islands, Aleutian Islands, Alaska
NameRat Islands Earthquake


10 Biggest Earthquakes in History


7. Ecuador-Colombia Earthquake(1906)

The 1906 Ecuador–Colombia earthquake happened at the time of 15:36 UTC on January 31, off the coast of Ecuador, near Esmeraldas (a coastal city in northwestern Ecuador). It makes a large tsunami (up to 5 meters/16 feet high), which is the source of the deaths.


LocationNear the Coast of Ecuador
Name1906 Ecuador–Colombia Earthquake


10 Biggest Earthquakes in History


6. Maule(Chile) Earthquake (2010)

2010 Maule Earthquake which is also called the name of the 2010 Chile earthquake happened off the coast of central Chile on the day of Saturday, 27 February at the time of 03:34 local time (06:34 UTC) about 3 km (1.9 miles) off the coast of Pelluhue commune in the Maule Region, Chile.

The great shaking lasted for about time of three minutes. Many coastal towns in south-central Chile were destroyed by the tsunami set off by the earthquake. The tsunami also destroyed the port at Talcahuano. Buildings were destroyed in many cities, including the capital, Santiago, causing numerous deaths. The higher authorities declared the final death toll of 525 victims and 25 people missing in January 2011.

LocationNear the Coast of Ecuador
Name1906 Ecuador–Colombia Earthquake




10 Biggest Earthquakes in History


5. Kamchatka, Russia Earthquake (1952)

On the date of November 4, 1952, at the time of 16:58 GMT (04:58 local time), a big earthquake hit off the coast of Kamchatka Peninsula, in the far east of Russia. It made a huge devastating Pacific-wide tsunami with waves up to 15 meters (50 feet) which made large-scale harm to the Kamchatka Peninsula and the Kuril Islands, where around 10,000 to 15,000 people lost their lives.

It was also very destructive in the Hawaiian Islands, but there were no human deaths assigned to the tsunami. The waves moved as far as Peru, Chile, and New Zealand. In Alaska, the Aleutian Islands, and California, tsunami waves of up to 1.4 meters (4.6 feet) were seen.


LocationOff the East Coast of the Kamchatka Peninsula, Russia
NameKamchatka, Russia
Deaths10,000 to 15,000


10 Biggest Earthquakes in History


4. Tōhoku Earthquake (2011)

On the date of 11 March 2011 Friday, at the time of 14:46 the local time (05:46 UTC), a massive undersea megathrust earthquake notes 1 off the coast of Japan happened. The earthquake set off a huge tsunami with waves up to 40.5 meters (133 feet) high.

It was one of the most dangerous disasters in human history, the waves moved inland as far as 6 miles (10 km) and generated huge and severe structural destruction in north-eastern Japan. Airports, roads, and railroads were damaged, 127,290 buildings totally failed, 272,788 buildings half-collapsed, and another 747,989 buildings were destroyed. A dam failed to resist.

The tsunami also happened nuclear accidents, firstly the level 7 meltdowns (means a huge accident, the peak level, look notes 2) at three reactors in the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant complex. On the date of 10 March 2015, it was reported that the confirmed loss was 15,894 deaths, 6,152 injured, and 2,562 people lost.

LocationNear the East Coast of Honshu, Japan
NameTohoku Earthquake


10 Biggest Earthquakes in History


3. Sumatra Earthquake (2004)

One of the most dangerous natural disasters in latest history, the 2004 Sumatra Earthquake (2004 Indian Ocean earthquake), happened at the time of 00:58:53 UTC on 26 December with the epicenter off the west coast of Sumatra, Indonesia. It broke the highest fault length of any measured earthquake, lasting a distance of 1500 km (900 miles).

The outcoming tsunami, with waves up to 30 meters (100 ft) high, caused up to a quarter of a million deaths. The earthquake had also a long time of faulting ever seen, around 8.3 to 10 minutes. It made the entire planet shake as much as 1 centimeter (0.4 inches).

The total energy emitted by the earthquake was almost 4.0×1022 joules (4.0×1029 ergs), or 9,600 gigatons of TNT, 550 million times that of the Hiroshima atomic bomb. The huge majority of this energy was inside the ground. The energy emitted on the Earth’s surface was approximate 1.1×1017 joules or 26 megatons of TNT. This energy is equal to over 1,500 times that of the Hiroshima atomic bomb, but less than that of Tsar Bomba, the biggest nuclear weapon ever to explode.

The outcoming tsunami was provided with different names, containing the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, South Asian tsunami, Indonesian tsunami, the Christmas tsunami (there were thousands of Christian tourists in the regions hampered by the tsunami), and the Boxing Day tsunami.


LocationOff the West Coast of Northern Sumatra
NameSumatra-Andaman Islands Earthquake, 2004 Sumatra Earthquake, and Tsunami, Indian Ocean Earthquake
Time(UTC)00:58:53 UTC


10 Biggest Earthquakes in History


2. Great Alaska Earthquake (1964)

The 1964 Great Alaska earthquake also known as the Good Friday earthquake happened at the local time, 3:36 UTC on the day of Good Friday, March 27 in the Prince William Sound region of Alaska. It lasted around 4.5 minutes and is the most strong measured earthquake in the U.S. past. The earthquake triggered a 27-foot (8.2 meters) tsunami which destroyed the village of Chenega, killing 23 of the 68 people who lived there.

Survivors out-ran the wave, climbing to high ground. It also caused a massive underwater landslide. Port Valdez city harbor and docks collapsed, and 30 people perished. A total of 139 people are believed to have died: 15 as a result of the earthquake itself, 106 from the subsequent tsunami in Alaska, 5 from the tsunami in Oregon, and 13 from the tsunami in California.


LocationSouthern Alaska
Name1964 Great Alaska Earthquake, Prince William Sound Earthquake, Good Friday Earthquake


10 Biggest Earthquakes in History



1. Valdivia Earthquake (1960)

It was the strong earthquake ever measured. The earthquake struck on the date of May 22 in the afternoon at the time of 19:11 GMT, 15:11 local time, estimated 100 miles (160 km) off the coast of Chile, parallel to the city of Valdivia.

It lasted around 10 minutes and set off a huge tsunami with waves up to 25 meters (82 feet). The major tsunami seriously smack the Chilean coast, raced across the Pacific Ocean, and destroyed Hilo, Hawaii.

The waves as high as 10.7 meters (35 feet) were measured even 10,000 kilometers (6,200 mi) from the epicenter, and as far away as Japan and the Philippines.

The death record of the 1960 Valdivia Earthquake is not fixed, the total number of death from the earthquake and tsunamis has been around between 1,000 and 6,000. Almost 3,000 people were wounded.


LocationBio-Bio, Chile
NameValdivia Earthquake


10 Biggest Earthquakes in History



Read Also: About Earthquake


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