Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Top 10 Deadliest Earthquakes In The World

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)

The Haiti earthquake is the most popular earthquake in recent memory. Happened on January 12, 2010, the magnitude 7 earthquake struck the most populated area of the country. The reported death toll was somewhere around 222,570 according to official estimates. The quake also injured 300,000 people and displaced about 1.3 million people. Tsunamis also hit the country after the earthquake. Celebrities help raise funds for the recovery of Haiti.

6. Haiyuan Earthquake, Haiyuan, China (1920)

On December 16, 1920, an earthquake that register as a high as 7.8 magnitude on the Richter scale hit the Haiyuan County of China. The strength of the earthquake was felt as far as Norway. The estimated death count is about 200,000. Haiyuan is located on a major fault line. Damages stretched up to seven Chinese provinces. Rivers changed courses and landslides were poured down the mountains which buried towns.

7. Ardabil (893 AD) and Damghan (856 AD) Earthquakes, Iran

Separated by only 37 years, the Damghan and Ardabil earthquakes claimed the lives of about half a million people in Iran. The Damghan quake was the most devastating earthquake in Iran’s history with 200,000 casualties. The destruction was doubled when another earthquake hit Ardabil, Iran which had a death toll of 150,000. Iran is a country susceptible to earthquakes because the country is situated along fault lines. The country was hit by other less fatal quakes in 1997 and in 2004.

8. Kanto Earthquake, Japan (1923)

On a quiet afternoon of September 1, 1923, the Tokyo-Yokohama area was hit by a massive earthquake. About 143,000 people died and left half of Tokyo’s population homeless. The deaths were attributed to the Magnitude 7.9 earthquake which was accompanied by firestorms. The firestorms burned about 381,000 houses of the total 694,000 houses that were partially or completely destroyed during the earthquake. The Kanto disaster was a combination of an earthquake, firestorms and typhoons that devastated Tokyo and surrounding areas. The disaster is also called the Great Tokyo Earthquake or the Great Tokyo Fire.

9. Ashgabat Earthquake, Ashgabat, Turkmenistan (1948)

An October earthquake with a measured strength of magnitude 7.3 turned the city of Ashgabat into rubble. The earthquake claimed 110,000 despite the efforts of thousand doctors, nurses, and other medical personnel from Moscow. Brick buildings collapsed, concrete structures were heavily damaged and freight trains were derailed. The Soviet Union downplayed the number of casualties to 10,000 but the newly formed independent government revealed the correct number which is 110,000. The future dictator of Turkmenistan Saparmurat Niyazov lost his entire family when they died in the incident.

10. Sichuan Earthquake, Sichuan Province, China (2008)

A 7.9-magnitude earthquake struck the mountainous Sichuan province in China and destroyed millions of infrastructure. The deadly 2008 earthquake took the lives of an estimated 87,000 people and left 10 million people homeless. The quake also caused an estimated $86 billion worth of damages. Children died in schools after being trapped under the rubble when the buildings collapsed. A public outcry led to an investigation which revealed that the schools were built unsafe. The initial calls for justice were silenced after extensive intimidation and alleged payoffs.

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.

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