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Largest Earthquakes in History

An earthquake is the shaking of the ground, resulting from the sudden movements within the Earth’s crust. The released energy creates seismic waves that can travel large distances in all directions. Earthquakes can be very destructive, destroying whole cities and killing a lot of people.

The size of an earthquake is measured using the Richter magnitude scale, the first widely-used method developed in 1934 by Charles F. Richter. Earthquakes with magnitude lower than 3 are weak and mostly invisible while those ones with magnitude greater than 7 can cause serious damage over large areas.

Here is a list of the largest earthquakes in history with magnitude over 8.5:

Valdivia, Chile, 22 May 1960 (Magnitude 9.5)

The most powerful earthquake in the world killed or injured 4,500 and destroyed homes of 2 million people. The tremor created a tsunami causing damage as far away as Hawaii, Philippines and the Japan. Also 2 days after, the volcano Puyehue erupted and spewed ash and steam up to 6 kilometers into the atmosphere.

Prince William Sound, Alaska, 28 March 1964 (Magnitude 9.2)

The biggest earthquake in Alaska caused most damage in Anchorage, but was also felt in some places in Canada. The earthquake created a tsunami with a height of 67 meters, which was responsible for the death of most of the 128 killed people.

Sumatra, Indonesia, 26 December 2004 (Magnitude 9.1)

The earthquake with epicenter at a depth of 30 kilometers, 250 kilometers southeast of Band Aceh, Indonesia, spawned the deadliest tsunami in history, killing 230,000 and destroying homes of 1.7 million people in 14 countries in Asia and East Africa.

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Sendai, Japan, 11 March 2011 (Magnitude 9.0)

The earthquake, aftershocks and the tsunami killed around 22,000 people and caused damage of several nuclear reactors in the area.

Kamchatka, Russia, 4 November 1952 (Magnitude 9.0)

The earthquake with an epicenter near the Russian peninsula created a tsunami which did the most damage in the Hawaiian Islands. No people were killed and only property damage was made.

Arica, Peru, 13 August 1868 (Magnitude 9.0)

The massive earthquake destroyed the city of Arequipa and killed 25,000 people. After the first shocks, a 16 meters tsunami was created. The earthquake was also felt in La Paz, Bolivia.

North Pacific Coast of America, 26 January 1700 (Magnitude 9.0)

One of the largest earthquakes in the North America was with an epicenter near the Vancouver Island. On 27 January 1700 a tsunami was recorded by Japanese observers which by assumption was a result of this earthquake.

Bio-Bio, Chile, 27 February 2010 (Magnitude 8.8)

The earthquake with an epicenter 335 kilometers southwest of Santiago killed 521 and injured 12,000 people. More than 800,000 people were left homeless and the tsunami spawn made damage to boats as far away as San Diego, California.

Ecuador Coast, 31 January 1906 (Magnitude 8.8)

Between 500 and 1,500 people were killed by the tsunami created as a result of the earthquake in Ecuador and Columbia. The tsunami made damage as far as San Francisco, Hawaii and Japan.

Lisbon, Portugal, 1 November 1755 (Magnitude 8.7)

The earthquake also felt in France, Italy and North Africa destructed almost the whole city of Lisbon and was the reason for the deaths of a quarter of its population.

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