Top 10 Most Deadly Earthquakes of History

Natural Calamities are a part and parcel of life on earth. There is a lot destruction of lives and property due to floods, earthquakes, landslides, storms, cyclones etc. Earthquakes are nothing but the shifting of plates below the surface of earth which is a natural phenomenon and their detection is very difficult. But scientists have produced and invented technology that can possibly detect earthquakes much before to save the lives of people in prone area. Over the years earthquakes have been causing mass destruction all over the globe and we can find their mentioning in ancient books as well. Here below I have tried to compile the top ten deadliest earthquakes known in the history of mankind according to the number of deaths occurred due to them.


1. Shaanxi, China (1556)

Shaanxi, China

Another Chinese earthquake and yet again a massive destruction of life. The magnitude was about 8, still high enough to collapse present day structures so one can imagine the amount of destruction it must have caused during 16th century. China has witnessed many deadly and dangerous earthquakes over the years but this one was the most deadly. Killing almost 830,000 people and destroying whole of the province. Its effects were felt even in Liuyang which is almost 500 miles away. According to reports and geological survey during that time the effect were such severe that there were ground fissures, subsidence, liquefaction and landslides. According to claims an area of about 300 miles was wiped out completely and the major casualties were due to the massive landslide which followed the earthquake.

Time and again earthquakes have proved to be one of the dangerous and feared natural disasters as they can bring along with them a tsunami or a land slide. The current developments in technology give us some time to vacate the prone areas of seismic activity during danger.

Stay Safe!


2. Tangshan, China (1976)

Tangshan, China

Well known as the “Great Tangshan Earthquake” measured around 7.8 on Richter scale. The epicenter was somewhere in Northeastern China but it will be safe to assume it as a binary quake because two similar tremors of 7.8 each were felt within a space of 16 hours. Both were equally destructive and people didn’t have enough time to recover from the first and be safe by the time of another tremor. The country refused for any sort of international aid and hence the actual survey reports were disclosed and hence flawed when released. But according to very reliable sources the actual death toll was around 700,000. But the reports from China suggested that there were 250,000 casualties only.


3. The Indian Ocean (2004)

The Indian Ocean

The largest earthquake in over 40 years and third largest since 1900 measuring around 9.2 hit the bottom of the Indian Ocean on Christmas. Tremors lasted for about 10 minutes. This resulted in altering of the earth’s axis and a tsunami about 100 feet high smashed Sumatra. In all 14 countries were affected by it. The official toll was 227,898. About 1.7 million people were displaced by the earthquake and the following tsunami across East Asia and Southern Africa.


4. Aleppo, Syria (1138)

Aleppo, Syria

Historical accounts suggest that the amount of destruction huge and walls of the second largest city of Syria kept collapsing. Rocks kept falling from higher lands and hills surrounding the city. It was first of the many quakes to have hit the region between 1138 and 1139. Due to lack of technology in that century the actual measurement on Richter scale is not known but the effects were felt even 220 miles south in the city of Damascus. The death toll is supposed to be about 230,000. Many Muslim and Christian army citadels were destroyed due to this severe earthquake. Many forts, nearby towns and castles were reduced to rubble.


5. Haiyuan, China (1920)

Haiyuan, China

The third Chinese earthquake to feature on this list. Well this proves a fact that China is one of the most earthquake prone areas along with japan where tremors are felt very regularly. The Haiyuang earthquake measured about 7.8 on Richter scale and claimed almost 200,000 lives. But many other reports suggest the tremor was as high as 8.5 and the toll is 240,000. Another example of flawed reports presented to the world by China. The tremor was so strong that it was felt across Europe and the rivers were forced to flow in reverse due to it. This earthquake was also followed by a landslide which buried the town of Sujiahe completely.


6. Haiti (2010)


This small country island has a history of being hit by natural disasters. But in particular this earthquake faded the memories of all the previous disasters. It was so devastating and destructive that almost 230,000 lives were lost and measured around 7 on Richter scale. Although the magnitude was low but the destruction was widespread and the whole of Haiti was left dormant for a considerable amount of time, just proving that Haiti is amongst the most impoverished nations on planet. There was complete destruction of airports and harbors leading to difficulty in rescue operations. There was international funding as well as The United Nations provided with the funds to rebuild the nation and its economy again.


7. Damghan, Iran (856)

Damghan, Iran

Damghan was the capital of Iran before being hit by this magnitude 8 earthquake claiming almost 200.000 lives and completely destroying the city as well. It affected an area of 200 miles around the city of Damghan , that is whole of northwest Iran almost. This city lies on the Alpide earthquake is the world’s second most seismically active zone. According to reports and statistics this belt causes worlds 17% of the largest earthquakes and 6% of the total quakes. That is indeed very dangerous and people live life on the edge along that belt.


8. Kanto, Japan (1923)

Kanto, Japan

Mostly referred to as the “Great Tokyo earthquake” or “Great Tokyo Fire” but caused major destruction in the Yokohama region. Actually this earthquake caused great destruction to the Tokyo Yokohama region followed by a fire burning half of the700, 000 houses which were already partially destroyed. The magnitude was about 7.9 and the number of deaths officially released in reports was about 150,000. Major casualties were due to the after quake fire caused due to typhoons  and it is also said that a 93 feet Buddha statue first came down then was all rubble such was the effect.


9. Hokkaido, Japan (1730)

Hokkaido, Japan

Japan is also a region prone to seismic activities and hence they have now days designed houses resistant to quakes up to a certain limit. The actual magnitude of earthquake is unknown but about 137.000 lives were claimed, so it is safe to assume that the tremors were not less than 7 on Richter scale. There was a tsunami which increased the casualty number otherwise the situation was in control and japan expected not many deaths. There was damage to roads, power outages and landslides as well. The island was shit by a similar earthquake of about 8 on Richter scale in 2003 but japan due to its superior technology and advancements survived and there were absolutely no casualties. That’s quite an achievement!


10. Ashgabat, Turkmenistan (1948)

Ashgabat, Turkmenistan

Within minutes about 110,000 people were crushed or burnt to death thanks to the terrible building standards followed by this country. Well a little known country Turkmenistan (formerly a part of the Soviet Union) but the buildings were way too weak to sustain even a quake of magnitude about 6. This earthquake measure 7.3 on Richter scale. Trains were derailed, surface ruptured in northwest and southwest of Ashgabat there were some casualties even in the neighboring region of Darreh Gaz.

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