We are continuing our top worst natural disasters on earth series. The first part of the series focussed on the worst pandemics.
Over to the second part now.
What exactly is an earthquake?
An earthquake is the trembling and shaking of the crust of the Earth resulting from a sudden release of energy in the Earth’s lithosphere that creates seismic waves. Earthquakes can range in size from those that are so weak that they cannot be felt to those violent enough to propel objects and people into the air, and wreak destruction across entire cities. The seismicity, or seismic activity, of an area is the frequency, type, and size of earthquakes experienced over a period of time.
Let’s start our list:
- Mount Tai earthquake ( 1731BCE or 1831BCE) – China
Mount Tai earthquake is the first recorded earthquake in history. It occurred at Mount Tai during the 7th year of the reign of King Fa from the Xia dynasty between circa 2205 and 1600 BCE. It was mentioned briefly in the Bamboo Annals. The event has been dated to 1831 or 1731 BCE. Mount Tai is one of the Five Great Mountains within Chinese culture and is associated with sunrise, birth and renewal. Seismically Mount Tai is a tilted fault-block mountain with height increasing from the north to the south. It is the oldest example of a paleo-metamorphic formation from the Cambrian Period in eastern China known as the Taishan Complex.
- Antioch earthquake ( 13 December 115 AD) – Rome
The 115 Antioch earthquake occurred on 13 December 115 AD. It had an estimated magnitude of 7.5 on the surface wave magnitude scale and an estimated maximum intensity of XI (Extreme) on the Mercalli intensity scale. Antioch and surrounding areas were devastated with a great loss of life and property. It triggered a local tsunami that badly damaged the harbour at Caesarea Maritima. The Roman Emperor Trajan was caught in the earthquake, as was his successor Hadrian. Although the consul Marcus Pedo Vergilianus was killed, they escaped with only slight injuries and later began a program to rebuild the city.
Fatalities: Around 260,000
- Damghan earthquake ( 22 December 856 AD) – Iran
The 856 Damghan earthquake or the 856 Qumis earthquake occurred on 22 December 856 AD. The earthquake had an estimated magnitude of 7.9, and a maximum intensity of X (Extreme) on the Mercalli intensity scale. The area of maximum damage extended for about 350 kilometres along the southern edge of the eastern Alborz mountains of present-day Iran including parts of Tabaristan and organ. The earthquake’s epicenter is estimated to be close to the city of Damghan, which was then the capital of the Persian province of Qumis. It caused approximately 200,000 deaths and is listed by the USGS as the sixth deadliest earthquake in recorded history
- Syria earthquake ( 20 May 1202 AD) – Syria
The 1202 Syria earthquake struck at about dawn on 20 May 1202 with an epicenter in southwestern Syria. Up to 1,100,000 deaths have been associated with this earthquake, although other estimates are much smaller. It was felt over a very wide area, from Sicily to Mesopotamia and Anatolia to upper Egypt, mostly affecting the Ayyubid Sultanate and the Kingdom of Jerusalem. The cities of Tyre, Acre and Nablus were heavily damaged. A magnitude of Ms = 7.6 has been estimated with damage up to XI on the Mercalli intensity scale.
Fatalities: Upto 1,100,000
- Lo Mustang earthquake ( 6 June 1505 AD) – Nepal
The 1505 Lo Mustang earthquake occurred on 6 June 1505 and had an estimated magnitude between 8.2 and 8.8 making it one of the largest earthquakes in Nepalese history. The earthquake killed an approximate 30 percent of the Nepalese population at the time. The earthquake was located in northern Nepal, and affected southern China.
Fatalities: 1/3rd of Nepalese Population
- Valdivia earthquake ( 22 May 1960 AD) – Chile
The 1960 Valdivia earthquake or the Great Chilean earthquake on 22 May 1960 is the most powerful earthquake ever recorded. Various studies have placed it at 9.4–9.6 on the moment magnitude scale. It occurred in the afternoon (19:11 GMT, 15:11 local time), and lasted approximately 10 minutes. The resulting tsunami affected southern Chile, Hawaii, Japan, the Philippines, eastern New Zealand, southeast Australia, and the Aleutian Islands.
Fatalities: Around 18,000
- Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami ( 26 December 2004AD) – Sumatra, Indonesia
The 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami (also known as the Boxing Day Tsunami) occurred at 00:58:53 UTC on 26 December, with an epicentre off the west coast of northern Sumatra, Indonesia. It was an undersea megathrust earthquake that registered a magnitude of 9.1–9.3 Mw, reaching an intensity up to IX in certain areas. The earthquake was caused by a rupture along the fault between the Burma Plate and the Indian Plate. A series of massive tsunami waves grew up to 30 m (100 ft) high once heading inland, after being created by the underwater seismic activity offshore. Communities along the surrounding coasts of the Indian Ocean were severely affected, and the tsunamis killed an estimated 227,898 people in 14 countries. The Indonesian city of Banda Aceh reported the largest number of victims. The earthquake was one of the deadliest natural disasters in recorded history. The direct results caused major disruptions to living conditions and commerce, particularly in Indonesia, Sri Lanka, India, and Thailand.
- Alaska earthquake ( March 27 1964AD) – Alaska, U.S.A.
The 1964 Alaskan earthquake, also known as the Great Alaskan earthquake and Good Friday earthquake, occurred at 5:36 PM AKST on Good Friday, March 27. Across south-central Alaska, ground fissures, collapsing structures, and tsunamis resulting from the earthquake caused about 131 deaths. Lasting four minutes and thirty-eight seconds, the magnitude 9.2 megathrust earthquake remains the most powerful earthquake recorded in North American history, and the second most powerful earthquake recorded in world history. Six hundred miles (970 km) of fault ruptured at once and moved up to 60 ft (18 m), releasing about 500 years of stress buildup. Soil liquefaction, fissures, landslides, and other ground failures caused major structural damage in several communities and much damage to property. Anchorage sustained great destruction or damage to many inadequately earthquake-engineered houses, buildings, and infrastructure (paved streets, sidewalks, water and sewer mains, electrical systems, and other man-made equipment), particularly in the several landslide zones along Knik Arm. Two hundred miles (320 km) southwest, some areas near Kodiak were permanently raised by 30 feet (9 m). Southeast of Anchorage, areas around the head of Turnagain Arm near Girdwood and Portage dropped as much as 8 feet (2.4 m), requiring reconstruction and fill to raise the Seward Highway above the new high tide mark.