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The 10 Largest Earthquakes of the Last Century

The 7.0 magnitude earthquake that struck the nation of Haiti on January 12, 2010 has begotten widespread devastation and...


The 7.0 magnitude
earthquake that struck the nation of Haiti on January 12, 2010 has begotten widespread devastation and unfathomable ruin, killing hundreds of thousands of people and leaving an estimated 1 million with nowhere to live. It may shock you to know that at 7.0, that quake doesn't make the list of the 10 largest of the past century; this is especially unsettling when one considers that each whole number increase in magnitude means a release of about 31 times more energy from the earth. Here's a look at the most powerful earthquakes, ranked by their registers on the Richter Scale, felt around the world since 1900.

10. Southern Sumatra, Indonesia, September 12, 2007: 8.5
Number killed: at least 25
Number injured: 161
Cost of damages: Unknown
Only a day after the dust settled, another 7.9 magnitude earthquake followed, collapsing buildings and killing five people.

9. Andreanof Islands Alaska, March 9, 1957: 8.6
Number killed: 0
Number displaced: Unknown
Cost of damages: $5 million
The only reported casualties were sheep, but it did produce massive waves all along the coastline of North, Central, and South America.

8. Assam, Tibet, August 15, 1950: 8.6
Number killed: 780
Number displaced: Unknown
Cost of damages: more than $25 million
Forty to 50 percent of all wildlife in the area nearest the quake died; the quake produced an violent aftershock a few days later that many journalists mistakenly believed to not only be greater than the original (it wasn't), but also the largest of all time (nor was it that).

7. Northern Sumatra, Indonesia, March 28, 2005: 8.7
Number killed: at least 1,000
Number displaced: Unknown
Cost of damages: Unknown
Two months earlier National Geographic predicted that Sumatra would experience more earthquakes (following the larger one on December 26, 2004). The island sits on a part of the ocean where large chunks of Earth's crust often collide; Sumatra's fault also spans the entire length of the island, which is a bit of a double whammy.

6. Rat Islands, Alaska, February 4, 1965: 8.7
Number killed: Unknown
Number displaced: Unknown
Cost of damages: $10,000
Positioned on the Aleutian arc on the boundary between the Pacific and North American crustal plates, the Rat Islands occupy one of the world's most active seismic zones; with more than 100 7.0 or larger magnitude earthquakes having occurred there in the past 100 years.

5. Off the coast of Ecuador, January 31, 1906: 8.8
Number killed: 500 to 1,500
Number displaced: Unknown
Cost of damages: Unknown
An especially violent year for earthquakes, 1906 also saw massive tremors in San Francisco and in Valparaiso, Chile.

4. Kamchatka, Russia, November 5, 1952: 9.0
Number killed: Unknown
Number displaced: Unknown
Cost of damages: $800,000 to $1 million
This earthquake unleashed a tsunami that was "powerful enough to throw a cement barge in the Honolulu Harbor into a freighter," but it wasn't widely reported in the West because it happened during the Cold War.

3. The west coast of Northern Sumatra, Indonesia, December 26, 2004: 9.1
Number killed: 157,577
Number displaced: 1,075,350
Cost of damages: Unknown
The tsunami that followed caused more casualties than any in recorded history.

2. Prince William Sound, Alaska. March 28, 1964: 9.2
Number killed: 128
Number displaced: Unknown
Cost of damages: $311 million
Because it occurred on Good Friday, it earned the somewhat dubious (if logical) title of the "Good Friday Earthquake."

1. Valdivia, Chile, May 22, 1960: 9.5
Number killed: 1,655
Number displaced: 2 million
Cost of damages: $550 million
The world's largest earthquake produced landslides so massive that they changed the courses of rivers and lakes. It begot a tsunami that battered the northern coastline of California, some 9,000 miles away; waves also hit Hawaii, the Philippines, and Japan where hundreds died.

Source: United States Geological Survey. Thanks, Alicia.
































































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