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The Top 5 Strongest Earthquakes ever Recorded

  Location Magnitude Date Deaths
1 Southern Chile 9.5 Mw May 22nd, 1960 1,655
2 Prince William Sound, Alaska, USA. 9.2 Mw Mar 28th, 1964 131
3 Northern Sumatra, Indonesia
(West coast)
9.1 Mw Dec 26th, 2004 227,898
4 North Coast of Japan 9.0 Mw Mar 11th, 2011 15,891
5 Kamchatka, Russia. 8.9 - 9.0 Mw Nov 4th, 1952 >10,000
Sources:  United Sates Geological Survey, WHO.

List Notes: Data is strongest earthquakes ever recorded since 1900. Magnitude data is measured using the "moment magnitude" scale (mw). Deaths are official death tolls and best estimates. The exact 1952 Kamchatka earthquake death toll is unknown but estimates place it at less than 10,000. Deaths can be attributed directly to the earthquake or at times, to a resulting tsunami (such as the case in Sumatra). Please note that exact death tolls can be difficult to calculate even in modern times and these figures should be considered as near estimates.
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  1. The 9.1 Mw earthquake that generated the great Indian Ocean tsunami of 2004, one of the deadliest tsunamis in known history, is estimated to have released the energy of 23,000 Hiroshima-type atomic bombs, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.
  2. On December 26th, local Indonesia time 07:58:53 a magnitude 9.15 earthquake took place on the seafloor west of Northern Sumatra,Indonesia (3.267 degrees North / 95.821 degrees East), 255 kilometres south-southwest of the city of Banda Aceh. The resulting tsunami reportedly reached speeds of as much as 800 kilometres per hour (500 miles per hour) throughout much of the Indian Ocean Basin. (a.). The earthquake was the result of the sliding of the portion of the Earth's crust known as the India plate under the section called the Burma plate. The process has been going on for millennia, one plate pushing against the other until something gave. The result on December 26 was a rupture the USGS estimates was more than 600 miles (1,000 kilometres) long, displacing the seafloor above the rupture by perhaps 10 yards (about 10 meters) horizontally and several yards vertically. An incredible amount considering the scale. The Indian Ocean tsunami travelled as much as 3,000 miles (nearly 5,000 kilometres) reaching parts of Africa and in the end affected 12 countries. (b.). The 2004 Asian tsunami resulted in over 175,000 deaths, nearly 50,000 missing, and over 1.7 million people displaced in the Indian Ocean region. Indonesia’s Aceh Province, closest to the epicentre of the quake, was exceptionally hard hit, with an estimated 129,775 deaths, 38,786 missing and 504,518 persons displaced in that province alone. (e.).
  3. The earthquake in Chile on May 22, 1960, is the strongest to be recorded in the world with magnitude 9.5, and killed more than 4,000 people. The largest U.S. earthquake occurred on March 28, 1964, in Alaska. It was a magnitude 9.2 quake and took 131 lives. (c.). The epicentre of the Chilean earthquake (the point on the earth's surface directly above the focus of an earthquake) was 60 meters down below the ocean floor about 100 miles off the coast of Chile out in the Pacific. A total of 130,000 houses were destroyed in the Chilean earthquake, one in every three in the earthquake zone. Approximately two million people were left homeless. Total damage losses, including agriculture and industry, were estimated to be over a half billion dollars in 1960 dollars. The total number of fatalities associated with both the tsunami and the earthquake was never established accurately for the region. Estimates of fatalities ranged between 490 to 5,700 with no distinction as to how many deaths were caused by the earthquake and how many were caused by the tsunami However, it is believed that most of the deaths in Chile were caused by the tsunami. (d.)
  4. On November 4, 1952, at 16:52 GMT, a strong earthquake off the coast of Kamchatka Peninsula, in the far east of Russia, generated a great destructive Pacific-wide tsunami. The tsunami waves struck the Kamchatka Peninsula, the Kuril Islands and other areas of Russia's Far East, and caused considerable damage and loss of life. The tsunami caused severe damage along the Pacific coastal area of the Kamchatka Peninsula, and was also very damaging in the Hawaiian Islands. (d.). By far the largest tsunami waves outside the generating earthquake area were observed in the Hawaiian Islands. No human lives were lost in Hawaii from this tsunami, but damage was extensive, estimates ranging from $800,000 - $1,000,000 (in 1952 US dollars). The earthquake off the coast of Kamchatka Peninsula generated a great destructive Pacific-wide tsunami. Its waves struck the Kamchatka Peninsula, the Kuril Islands and other areas of Russia's Far East, causing considerable damage and loss of life. (e.).
  5. The Alaskan earthquake occurred on Good Friday, March 27, 1964, at 5:36 PM local time. It was the largest earthquake ever recorded in North America and duration estimates range from 3 to 5 minutes. Sources vary as to the magnitude of this earthquake, in part because a variety of scales are used to measure earthquakes. The epicenter was located between Valdez and Anchorage, near Prince William Sound and occurred on a thrust fault. This fault was a subduction zone, where the Pacific plate plunges underneath the North American plate. The sudden uplift of the Alaskan seafloor caused a tsunami, which was responsible for 122 of the 131 total deaths. The tsunami propagated at speeds over 400 miles (640 kilometres) per hour and reached as far as the Hawaiian Islands. The tsunami also struck Crescent City, California, where giant redwood logs from a nearby sawmill were thrust into the city streets killing ten people. A total of 16 people died in Oregon and California. (g.).
Top 5 facts sources:
  1. Berman, Arthur B. (2005). "The Northern Sumatra Earthquake of 2004: Forty Years of Ignoring Plate Tectonics". Retrieved, April 2011.
  2. National Geographic News. (2005) "The Deadliest Tsunami in History?". Retrieved April, 2011 from:
  3. United Sates Geological Survey. (2009). "Earthquake Facts & Earthquake Fantasy". Retrieved April, 2011 from:
  4. Carayannis, George, P. (date unknown). "Chile Earthquake and Tsunami of 22 May 1960" Retrieved April, 2011 from:
  5. Doocy, S., Robinson, C., Moodie, C., Burnham, G. (2008). "Tsunami-related injury in Aceh Province, Indonesia". Retrieved April, 2011.
  6. Australian Government: Bureau of Meteorology. (2011). "The 4 November 1952 Kamchatka Earthquake and Tsunami." Retrieved April, 2011 from:
  7. Irvine, T. Vibrationdata. (date unknown). Retrieved April, 2011 from:





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