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10 DEADLIEST quakes that shook the world

Last updated on: April 11, 2012 17:51 IST

10 DEADLY quakes that shook the world

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A massive quake measuring 8.5 on the Richter scale struck waters off the western coast of northern Sumatra in Indonesia on Wednesday. Tremors from the quake were felt in Chennai, Bengaluru and Kolkata while a tsunami alert has been issued in 20 countries.

We once again present a special feature on the ten worst earthquakes that had shaken the world and caused immense damage.

Earthquakes have rocked our planet several times over the years. While many quakes have gone unnoticed, some have wrecked havoc, wiping out villages, towns and destroying cities.

Earthquakes with a reading of 3 on the Richter scale are usually not harmful, but earthquakes with a reading of 7 or more are guaranteed to cause massive destruction.

According to the Time magazine, following are 10 deadliest earthquakes, which not only brought about devastation, but also cost many lives.

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No 10

Disaster struck on Sunday, May 31, 1970, when an earthquake measuring 7.9 on the Richter scale hit Chimbote. Reports said that most of the fatalities from the earthquake were caused by building collapses. Townsites were located on alluvial fill, and dwellings were mostly of adobe (clay bricks).

Where: Chimbote, Peru

When: May 31, 1970

Magnitude: 7.9 on the Richter scale

Death toll: 70,000

Affected: More than 800,000 were left homeless

Intensity: Tremors could be felt some 400 miles away in the capital Lima.

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Image: The quake-hit Chimbote in Peru

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No. 9

Europe's most powerful earthquake rocked southern Italy on December 28, 1908. The epicentre of the quake was in the Messina Strait, which separates Sicily from Calabria. Just minutes after the earthquake's first shock, a tsunami with forty-foot waves crashed down on dozens of coastal cities.

Where: Messina Strait, Italy

When: December 28, 1908, 

Magnitude: 7.5 on the Richter scale

Death toll: 80,000

Affected: Dozens of towns destroyed.

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Image: The quake-hit Messina Strait in Italy

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No. 8

The earthquake that struck Pakistan-administered Kashmir was a devastating one. Reports say that entire towns and villages were wiped out in northern Pakistan. As Saturday was a school day in the region, most students were at schools when the earthquake struck. 

Five crossing points were opened on the Line of Control between India and Pakistan to facilitate the flow of humanitarian and medical aid to the affected region.

Where: Pakistan occupied Kashmir

When: October 8, 2005 

Magnitude: 7.6 on the Richter scale

Death toll: 79,000

Affected: Quake left millions homeless

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Image: The quake-hit PoK

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No. 7

This deadly earthquake, also known as the Wenchuan earthquake, as Wenchuan was the epicentre of the quake, measured 7.9 on the Richter scale. 104 major aftershocks, ranging in magnitude from 4.0 to 6.1, were recorded within 72 hours of the main quake. The earthquake hit an area that had been largely neglected and untouched by China's economic rise.

The Wenchuan earthquake is one of the costliest natural disasters in Chinese history.

Where: Sichuan Province in western China

When: May 12, 2008 

Magnitude: 7.9 on the Richter scale

Death toll: 87,000; 10,000 children died in schools 

Affected: 10 million left homeless, $86 billion (about Rs 254,000 crore) worth of damage.

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Image: The quake-hit Sichuan Province, China

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No. 6

The earthquake struck at 2:17 in the morning on October 6, 1948. The epicentre of the quake was near the small village Gara-Gaudan. However, due to censorship by the national government, the Ashgabat earthquake was not much reported in Soviet Union media. This earthquake is said to have killed future Turkmen president Saparmurat Niyazov's mother and the rest of his family, leaving him an orphan.

Where: City of Ashgabat, Turkmenistan

When:  6 October, 1948

Magnitude: 7.3 on the Richter scale

Death toll: 110,000

Affected: Almost all brick buildings collapsed, while concrete structures were heavily damaged.

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Image: The quake-hit Ashgabat in Turkmenistan

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No. 5

The 1923 Great Kanto earthquake is the deadliest earthquake ever to strike Japan. In 1960, the government of Japan declared September 1, as an annual Disaster Prevention Day. The earthquake had struck at lunchtime when people were using fire to cook food. Fires broke out at many places, which increased the damage and the number of fatalities.

Where: Tokyo-Yokohama metropolitan area, Japan

When: September 1, 1923

Magnitude: 7.9 on the Richter scale

Death toll: 143,000

Affected: The quake triggered a tsunami with waves up to 40 feet high. Almost all buildings in Yokohama were damaged or in ruins. Half the population of the area was rendered homeless.


Image: The quake-hit Tokyo-Yokohama, Japan

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No. 4

Also know as the 1920 Gansu earthquake, the quake measured 7.8 on the Richter scale. The earthquake was followed by aftershocks that went on for three years. A landslide buried the village of Sujiahe in Xiji County, as more than 30,000 people were killed in Guyuan County. There were large number of landslides and ground cracks throughout the epicentral area. While some rivers were dammed, many others changed course.

Where: Haiyuan in China

When:  December 16, 1920 

Magnitude: 7.8 on the Richter scale

Death toll: 200,000 

Affected: Sujiahe, a town in Xiji County, was completely buried under a landslide. 

Intensity: The quake was so powerful that it changed the course of rivers and set off landslides.

Image: The quake-hit Haiyuan in China

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No. 3

One of the deadliest natural disasters in recorded history, its epicentre was off the west coast of Sumatra, Indonesia. The plight of people affected due to the tsunami that followed the earthquake prompted a worldwide humanitarian response.

Even a week after the earthquake, its reverberations could still be measured. There were no tsunami warning systems in the Indian Ocean to detect tsunamis or to warn people living around the ocean. Relief agencies report that one-third of the dead were children.

Where: Indian Ocean, triggering a tsunami

When: Dec. 26, 2004

Magnitude: 9.2 on the Richter scale

Death toll: 227,898

Affected: People were swept out to sea while others drowned in their homes, unable to escape.

Intensity: Largest earthquake in 40 years releasing energy equivalent to that of 23,000 atomic bombs. Launched a tsunami with 50 feet high waves.

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Image: The Indian Ocean quake was followed by 50-feet waves

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No. 2

The Great Tangshan Earthquake is believed to be the largest earthquake of the 20th century by death toll. Interestingly, the Chinese government refused to accept international aid from the United Nations, and insisted on self reliance.

The earthquake was followed by a major 7.1 magnitude aftershock some 16 hours later, increasing the death toll. 

Where:  Great Tangshan Earthquake in Hebei, China

When:  July 28, 1976

Magnitude: 7.8 on the Richter scale 

Death toll: 250,000

Affected: 164,000 people were recorded as being severely injured.

Intensity: Eighty-five percent of the buildings in the city were collapsed into ruins or became uninhabitable. few buildings as far away as Beijing, 140 km from the epicentre, were damaged.

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Image: The quake-hit Hebei in China

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No. 1

The quake occurred on the morning of 23 January 1556 in Shaanxi. The powerful earthquake is said to have destroyed an 840-kilometre wide area. Most people in those days lived in dwellings called yaodongs in the cliffs. This was the major contributing factor to the huge death toll as the earthquake caused landslides, which destroyed the caves.

Where: China's central Shaanxi province

When:  1556 

Magnitude: 8.0 on the Richter scale

Death toll: 830,000 

Affected: An area some 500 miles wide was wiped out

Intensity: Deadliest quake of all time. Pre-modern structures were utterly unable to withstand a quake of such force.

Image: Shaanxi province

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