Earthquakes are forces of nature that happen almost every time. They can be barely noticeable or terribly devastating. People feel about 100,000 earthquakes a year with about 1,000 of them cause property damage. Eighty percent of earthquakes occur in the Pacific Rim of Fire and these earthquakes cause other disasters such as mudslides, fires, floods and tsunamis. Here is the list of the top 10 most deadly earthquakes that killed thousands of people.
1. Shaanxi Earthquake, Shaanxi Province, China (1556)
Formerly known as Shensi, the Shaanxi province of China was struck by an earthquake at about Magnitude 8 on January 23, 1556. The earthquake claimed the lives of as many as 830,000 people. The damage extended up to 270 miles away from the epicenter. Many people died because majority of the population were living in pre-modern structures such as artificial caves which collapsed. The strength of the quake also caused landslides that contributed to the high number of casualties. Hills and valleys were also instantly formed and many rivers changed course.
2. Tangshan Earthquake, Tangshan, China (1976)
The second deadliest quake also happened in China. The July 27, 1976 Tangshan earthquake had estimated death toll of as high as 655,000. The Magnitude 7.5 earthquake damaged the northeastern part of china and damages extended as far as Beijing. The government tried to suppress the actual death toll and gave an estimate of 240,000. What made the quake more disastrous was the aftershock that measured up to about Magnitude 7. The Tangshan earthquake happened during China’s great political turmoil known as the ‘year of curse’. The disaster was said to be an omen for the end of the Mao Zedong era.
3. Aleppo Earthquake, Aleppo, Syria (1138)
The walls of Syria’s second largest city crumbled and rocks cascaded to the streets after an earthquake struck the city of Aleppo. The earthquake happened on August 9, 1138 with about 230,000 deaths. The magnitude of the earthquake was not known. There were also other places that were damaged by the quake. The citadel constructed by European crusaders at nearby Harim collapsed after the quake. The Muslim fort at Al-Atarib was also destroyed. The Aleppo earthquake was felt as far as 200 miles away from the epicenter and was the first of several quakes that devastated Northern Syria and Western Turkey.
4. Sumatra Earthquake, Sumatra, Indonesia (2004)
The Sumatra earthquake is the fourth deadliest earthquake in the world with a measured strength of Magnitude 9.1. The energy released of a magnitude 9.1 earthquake is equivalent to 23,000 atomic bombs. No wonder the December, 2004 earthquake had a total death toll of 227,898. The epicenter of the quake was under the sea. The quake triggered tsunamis across the Indian ocean with waves as high as 50 feet and smashed coastal areas of 14 countries. People were swept out to sea while others were drowned in their homes.
5. Haiti Earthquake, Haiti (2010)
6. Haiyuan Earthquake, Haiyuan, China (1920)
7. Ardabil (893 AD) and Damghan (856 AD) Earthquakes, Iran
8. Kanto Earthquake, Japan (1923)
9. Ashgabat Earthquake, Ashgabat, Turkmenistan (1948)
10. Sichuan Earthquake, Sichuan Province, China (2008)
Honorable mention: Other deadly earthquakes that did not make to the top 10 include the 2005 Kashmir, Pakistan earthquake which killed 79,000 and made millions of people homeless, the 1908 Messina, Italy earthquake with more than 80,000 people killed and dozens of towns destroyed, and the 1970 Chimbote, Peru earthquake which took 70,000 people’s lives and left 800,000 people homeless.