Humans, women and men, have lived with earthquakes since time immemorial. Ever since the planet earth solidified, more or less 3.9 billion years ago, earthquakes of various kinds have occurred. There is no way of knowing – to date – what the first earthquake in human history was. What is known, however, is that a strong earthquake called Tell Farkha occurred between 3200 and 3000 BC. In 526 in Turkey, which was then the Byzantine Empire, a powerful earthquake occurred. On 21 May 526, a magnitude of 7.0 (estimated) killed 240,000 people. The epicentre of the earthquake was in Antioch of Syria, which is why the earthquake is called the ‘Antioch Earthquake of 526’. Since then, thousands of earthquakes have occurred worldwide. Not least the earthquake of 21 June 2022 in Afghanistan, in Khost, with a magnitude of 6.0, which resulted in 1163 deaths. In the article, we will analyse various data: the biggest earthquakes in history, those with the highest magnitude and those that have claimed the most victims.
Highest magnitude earthquake
A first element. To measure the magnitude of earthquakes, we refer to magnitude. Magnitude is used in seismology to calculate the strength of a given earthquake. This figure also makes it possible to compare different earthquakes with each other. The higher this figure, the greater – potentially – the earthquake’s danger. The earthquake with the highest magnitude we know of is the 1960 Valdivia earthquake. Occurring in Chile on 22 May 2022, this earthquake had a magnitude of 9.4-9.6. The Great Chile Earthquake is still the most powerful earthquake ever recorded. In total, the earthquake lasted about 10 minutes. This devastating earthquake also caused – as often happens in such cases – strong tsunamis that devastated Hawaii and Hilo. Waves of almost 11 metres, about 35 feet, were reported, even though they were more than 10,000 kilometres away from the place where the earthquake occurred.
In second place among the largest earthquakes ever is the Aleutian Islands earthquake in 1585. The earthquake in this one occurred on the Sanriku coast of Japan. The memory of this earthquake was made possible mainly through oral accounts that remained from person to person until the arrival of writing. It is clear that the greater the distance to the episode, the less certain the data.
The 1730 earthquake, also in Chile, which occurred on 8 July is the third most devastating earthquake ever in terms of magnitude. It also occurred in this case on the west coast of Chile and triggered a very strong tsunami. Fortunately, this earthquake caused few casualties because a strong tremor had anticipated the disaster. Among the more recent earthquakes, the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake in Indonesia on 26 December 2004 and the Tohoku earthquake in Japan on 11 March 2011 are the most recent earthquakes with the highest magnitude.
The earthquakes with the highest number of victims
If the 1960 earthquake is the one with the highest magnitude, which are the earthquakes with the highest number of victims? A total of 15 earthquakes have claimed more than 100,000 lives. The earthquake that has claimed the most victims ever is the one in Shaanxi, China. The magnitude was 8.0. But the number of victims in this case was between 820,000 and 830,000. An incredible figure that remains the highest ever. Among the great earthquakes in terms of the number of victims are those of 1920 and 1976 in China, in Haiyuan and Hebei. The victims in that case were 245,000 and 240,000. But among the earthquakes with the most victims ever, there are also two recent ones.
Haiti earthquake 2021
The first, the one in the Indian Ocean in 2004, on 26 December with 240,000 victims. And the one in Haiti in 2010 with 230 thousand victims. The 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and tidal wave was one of the most disastrous natural disaster events ever. The earthquake lasted eight minutes, with a magnitude of 9.1. The earthquake created a maermoto with waves up to 15 metres high. Fourteen countries were affected, from Indonesia to India via South Africa and Madagascar.
The other earthquake that made history in the new millennium was certainly Haiti earthquake 2021. The magnitude of this earthquake was 7.0 MW (6.1 Richter scale). The earthquake affected over 3 million people and the total number of victims was estimated at over 222,500. Many buildings in the capital were affected and all hospitals in the city were also destroyed. A disaster that is still remembered around the world today for the damage it caused.
Source and data
To see the video: Largest Earthquakes in World History 1900/2022 – MAP
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