Natural disasters occur almost every month; tornadoes, floods, volcanic eruptions, earthquakes and tsunamis come and go in a rapid succession. They are destructive forces of nature that impact negatively on people’s lives and the economy of an area, by claiming human lives and turning cities, towns and cultivated fields in war-like zones where people can no longer live. The recent climate changes brought an increase in natural catastrophes, in 2012 being registered 905 such events worldwide. The last decade registered especially high magnitude, high impact earthquakes and the specialists can’t pinpoint the exact cause of this events or their increased frequency. The earthquake is particularly damaging if it occurs in densely populated areas, like a big metropolis or if it triggers a huge tsunami wave, much more destructive than the earthquake itself. Here are the 10 biggest earthquakes registered since 1900.
10. Assam, Tibet
The earthquake happened on August 15, 1950 and it killed almost 1500 people across Tibet and Assam, India. The shock wave was felt all the way through Yunnan, China and Calcutta, India. It created large landslides that eventually stopped rivers from flowing freely. The rivers flooded big areas including villages and killed people.
9. Northern Sumatra, Indonesia
This earthquake hit Indonesia on 28 March 2005; just a few months after the major earthquake of 2004 followed by huge tsunami; and it killed 1300 people. It lasted for about two minutes and there were eight major aftershocks with the magnitude 5-6. The most affected area was Nias Island where the buildings collapsed and most of the people were killed or injured. Tsunami alerts were issued but the waves were not that high and they did not produce that much damage.
8. Rat Islands, Alaska
This huge earthquake happened here in 1965. It produced a 10 meter high tsunami that spread all the way through Japan. Due to the remote location the damages were not high and the destruction minimum. Two months later a 7.6 aftershock made the volcanic islands of Aleutian tremble again but the tsunami was small and no damage registered. No deaths were reported.
7. Off the coast of Ecuador, Colombia
On January 31, 1906 an earthquake 8.8 magnitude occurred off the coast of Ecuador and Columbia and produced a large tsunami that killed between 500 and 1500 people. The tsunami reached San Francisco and Japan and even that the event took place more than 100 years ago people remembered it. They said that a huge amount of water rushed towards Honolulu Bay and flooded the area turning the boats around.
6. Offshore Maule, Chile
A month after the disastrous 7.0 Haiti quake that killed 200,000 people, the Earth shook again; this time in Chile. 500 people were killed, 800,000 displaced and more than 1,8 million affected by the earthquake-tsunami combo that hit the area. Tsunami alerts were issued in 53 countries. The damages were estimated at $30 billion.
5. Kamchatka Peninsula, Russia
The first 9.0 earthquake in the world was recorded in 1952. There were no deaths reported but 13 meters tsunami reached Crescent City, California and damaged properties up to $1 million in Hawaii. The waves damaged houses, piers, roads and brought boats to the beach.
4. East Coast of Honshu, Japan
The biggest earthquake ever registered in Japan, hit the coast on March 11, 2011 and it lasted approximately 6 minutes. The tsunami killed 29,000 people and damaged the Fukushima nuclear reactors. There were more than 50 aftershocks, with the magnitude 6.0 or bigger. The earthquake moved northeastern Japan 2.4 meters closer to North America and a portion of 400 km of coastline dropped 0.6 meters allowing the tsunami to move inland faster and wider. It also shifted the Earth’s axis between 10 cm and 25cm, shift caused by the redistribution of mass on the surface.
3. Off the West Coast of Northern Sumatra
This was the third largest earthquake in the world. It killed 227,898 people and 1.7 million were displaced by the following tsunami that hit 14 countries in Southeast Asia and East Africa. The tsunami caused more damage and more casualties than any other wave ever registered and was recorded all around the globe one day after Christmas on 26 December, 2004.
2. Prince William, Alaska
The quake lasted about 3 minutes, killed 128 people and produced $311 million in damages in 1964. It caused large landslides that hit Anchorage’s business sector, ruined telephone lines, gas pipes and electrical systems and disrupted the activities in many towns in Alaska. The tsunami caused damages all the way to Hawaii.
1. Valdivia, Chile
This is the largest earthquake ever recorded. It took place in 1960 in Chile and it killed 1,665 people. Thousands of other people were injured and millions were left homeless. The damages were estimated at $550 million. The tsunami killed 61 people in Hawaii and 32 in the Philippines. Two day after the quake a volcano erupted sending tones of ash in the atmosphere for weeks.