Top 10 Largest Earthquakes (By Magnitude)

#10 Assam – Tibet 8.6

This earthquake occurred on 08/15/1950.  The epicenter was actually located near Rima, in Tibet, China. However, the earthquake was destructive in both Assam and Tibet, and 1,526 people were killed.  Large landslides blocked the Subansiri River. This natural dam broke 8 days later, creating a wave 23 ft high which inundated several villages and killed 536 people. The quake was felt as far away as Calcutta.  Seiches were observed in many lakes and fjords of Norway and in at least 3 reservoirs in England.  It is also the largest known earthquake to have not been caused by an oceanic subduction. Instead, this quake was caused by two continental plates converging.

#9 Northern Sumatra, Indonesia 8.6

This earthquake occurred 04/28/2005.   Approximately 1300 people were killed by the earthquake, mostly on the island of Nias.  The event caused panic in the region, which had previously been devastated by the massive tsunami triggered by the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake, but this earthquake generated a relatively small tsunami that caused limited damage.  The earthquake lasted for about two minutes in total. In the twenty-four hours immediately after the event, there were eight major aftershocks.  The earthquake was also strongly felt along the west coast of Thailand and Malaysia, and in Kuala Lumpur high-rise buildings were evacuated.

#8 Rat Island, Alaska 8.7

This earthquake occurred on 02/04/1965.  On Adak Island, cracks occurred in prefabricated wood buildings; on Shemya Island, cracks were observed in an asphalt runway. Hairline cracks also formed in the runways at the U.S. Coast Guard Loran Station on Attu Island. This earthquake generated a tsunami reported to be about 10.7 meters high on Shemya Island.  Loss caused by flooding on Amchitka Island was estimated at about $10,000.

#7 Off the coast of Ecuador 8.8

This earthquake occurred on 01/31/1906 off of the coast of Ecuador and Colombia generating a strong tsunami which killed 500 – 1500 people.  It was observed all along the coast of Central America and as far north as San Francisco and west to Japan, the wave arrived in Hilo at about 12.5 hours after the earthquake.

#6 offshore Maule, Chili 8.8

This earthquake occurred on 02/27/2010.  In the Valparaiso-Concepcion-Temuco area there were 523 people killed and 12,000 injured by this earthquake and tsunami.   Intense shaking from the earthquake lasted about three minutes.  It was felt strongly in six Chilean regions (from Valparaíso in the north to Araucanía in the south), that together make up about 80 percent of the country’s population.  Tsunami warnings were issued in 53 countries and the wave caused minor damage in the San Diego area of Californiaand in the Tōhoku region of Japan.

#5 Kamchatka 9.0

This earthquake occurred on 11/04/1952. A severe and locally damaging tsunami generated on Kamchatka by a magnitude 8.2 earthquake struck the Hawaiian Islands.  Although property damage was estimated to have been up to 1 million dollars, no lives were lost.  The wave caused the tide gaga at Kahului to go off scale and stop recording.  A tsunami was also observed in Alaska, and California also saw a wave surge.

#4 Near east coast of Honshu, Japan 9.0

This earthquake occurred on 03/11/2011, It was the most powerful known earthquake ever to have hit Japan.  At least 15,844 people were killed and 3,394 missing by this earthquake and ensuing tsunami along the east coast of Honshu.  The total economic loss for Japan is estimated to be 309 billion dollars.  Electricity, gas and water supplies, telecommunications and railway service disrupted and several reactors severely damaged at a nuclear power plant near Okuma.

#3 Off the west coast of northern Sumatra 9.1

This earthquake occurred on 12/26/2004.   The earthquake was caused by subduction and triggered a series of devastating tsunamis along the coasts of most landmasses bordering the Indian Ocean.  227,898 people were killed, or presumed missing, and about 1.7 million people were displaced by this earthquake and subsequent tsunami in 14 countries in South Asia and East Africa.  The tsunami caused more casualties than any other in recorded history.

#2 Prince William Sound 9.2 

This massive earthquake and ensuing tsunami occurred on 04/27/1964 and took 128 lives.  Lasting nearly four minutes, it was the most powerful recorded earthquake in U.S. and North American history  Anchorage, which was about 120km from the epicenter, sustained the most damage to property.  Landslides in Anchorage also caused extensive damage.  The shock from the earthquake generated a tsunami which devastated many towns along the Gulf of Alaska.

#1 Chile 9.5

This massive earthquake occurred on 05/22/1960.  Severe damage from shaking occurred in the Valdivia-Puerto Montt area. Most of the casualties and much of the damage was because of large tsunamis which caused damage along the coast of Chile and in many areas of the Pacific Ocean.  Approx. 1,655 killed in Southern Chile, tsunami caused 61 deaths in Hawaii, 138 deaths in Japan and 32 deaths in Philippines.

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