Earthquakes are natural disasters caused by the movement of tectonic plates beneath the Earth's surface. They are characterized by the release of energy in the form of seismic waves, which can cause the ground to shake and cause damage to buildings and other structures. Earthquakes can also trigger landslides, tsunamis, and other secondary hazards. The severity of an earthquake is measured using the Richter scale, which ranges from 1 to 9, with higher numbers indicating a more powerful earthquake. Earthquakes can occur anywhere in the world, but they are more common in certain areas, such as along plate boundaries and in areas of high seismic activity.
- The Great Chilean Earthquake of 1960: The Great Chilean Earthquake of 1960, also known as the Valdivia earthquake, was a magnitude 9.5 earthquake that struck Chile on May 22, 1960. It is the most powerful earthquake ever recorded and caused widespread destruction and loss of life throughout the country. The earthquake caused a tsunami that affected the coasts of Chile, Hawaii, Japan, the Philippines, and the Aleutian Islands, with waves as high as 10 meters (33 ft) in some areas.
The damage was severe in the affected areas, with over 1,655 deaths, 3,000 injuries, and 2,000,000 people left homeless. The tsunami caused an estimated $550 million in damages (equivalent to $4.8 billion in 2020 dollars) and resulted in an estimated 5,000 deaths. It caused huge landslides and created new islands on the coast of Chile. It also caused changes in the course of rivers, created new lakes and modified the coastline.
- The 2004 Indian Ocean Earthquake and Tsunami: The 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami was a magnitude 9.1 earthquake that occurred on December 26, 2004. It was caused by the movement of the Indian Plate beneath the Burmese Plate and caused a devastating tsunami that affected 14 countries in the Indian Ocean region. The worst affected areas were in Indonesia, Sri Lanka, India, and Thailand. The tsunami caused over 230,000 deaths and affected more than 1.7 million people. It also caused extensive damage to infrastructure and buildings, with the total damage estimated to be around $10 billion.
The earthquake and tsunami were caused by a thrust fault that ruptured along a 1,200 km (750 mi) section of the boundary between the Indian Plate and the Burmese Plate. The sudden movement of the plates caused a massive release of energy in the form of seismic waves that radiated out from the epicenter. These waves caused the sea floor to rise and fall, generating a tsunami that traveled across the Indian Ocean at speeds of up to 800 km/h (500 mph). The waves reached heights of up to 30 meters (100 ft) in some areas, causing widespread destruction and flooding.
The tsunami early warning system was not exist in Indian Ocean region and the lack of education and awareness about tsunamis also resulted in many deaths. The disaster prompted the creation of the Indian Ocean Tsunami Warning System and increased efforts to educate people about the dangers of tsunamis.
- The 2011 Tōhoku Earthquake and Tsunami: The 2011 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami, also known as the Great East Japan earthquake, was a magnitude 9.0 earthquake that occurred on March 11, 2011. It was caused by the movement of the Pacific Plate beneath the North American Plate, and triggered a devastating tsunami that affected the northeastern coast of Japan. The tsunami caused extensive damage to infrastructure and buildings, and resulted in over 15,000 deaths and 2,500 missing people. The disaster also caused a nuclear accident at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant, which resulted in the release of radioactive material and widespread contamination.
The earthquake was caused by a megathrust fault that ruptured along a 400 km (250 mi) section of the boundary between the Pacific Plate and the North American Plate. The sudden movement of the plates caused a massive release of energy in the form of seismic waves that radiated out from the epicenter. These waves caused the ground to shake violently and triggered a tsunami that reached heights of up to 40.5 meters (133 ft) in some areas, causing widespread destruction and flooding.
The tsunami caused severe damage to the northeastern coast of Japan, with entire towns and villages being swept away. The disaster also caused a nuclear accident at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant, which resulted in the release of radioactive material and widespread contamination. The accident was the second-worst nuclear disaster in history, after the Chernobyl disaster in 1986.
The disaster prompted the Japanese government to review its disaster management policies and to improve its early warning systems for earthquakes and tsunamis. It also prompted a global review of the safety and design of nuclear power plants.
- The 1906 San Francisco Earthquake: The 1906 San Francisco earthquake was a magnitude 7.9 earthquake that occurred on April 18, 1906. It struck the San Francisco Bay Area in California and caused widespread destruction and loss of life. The earthquake was caused by a slip on the San Andreas Fault, which ruptured along a 400 km (250 mi) section of the boundary between the Pacific Plate and the North American Plate. The sudden movement of the plates caused a massive release of energy in the form of seismic waves that radiated out from the epicenter.
The earthquake caused fires that broke out throughout the city and destroyed around 80% of the structures in San Francisco. The fires burned for several days, and efforts to put them out were hampered by broken water mains and gas lines. The death toll from the disaster is estimated to be around 3,000 people and around 300,000 people were left homeless. The damage caused by the earthquake and fires is estimated to be around $400 million (equivalent to $11 billion in 2020 dollars).
The disaster prompted the city to rebuild and create a more earthquake-resistant infrastructure. It also prompted the creation of the California Seismic Safety Commission and the California Earthquake Authority. The 1906 San Francisco earthquake is considered one of the worst natural disasters in the history of the United States and it served as a wake-up call for the importance of earthquake preparedness.
- The 2010 Haiti Earthquake: The 2010 Haiti earthquake was a catastrophic magnitude 7.0 Mw earthquake, with an epicenter near the town of Léogâne, approximately 25 kilometers (16 mi) west of Port-au-Prince, Haiti's capital. The earthquake occurred at 16:53 local time (21:53 UTC) on Tuesday, 12 January 2010. With a depth of 13 km (8.1 mi). It was the most destructive earthquake to hit the Caribbean nation in over 200 years. It killed an estimated 230,000 people and injured 300,000. Many buildings were destroyed, including the Presidential Palace, the National Assembly building, the Port-au-Prince Cathedral, and the main jail. The United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) reported that an estimated 250,000 residences and 30,000 commercial buildings had collapsed or were severely damaged.
- The 1920 Haiyuan Earthquake: The 1920 Haiyuan earthquake, also known as the Gansu earthquake, occurred on December 16, 1920 in Haiyuan County, Gansu province, China. It had a magnitude of 7.8 on the Richter scale and was one of the deadliest earthquakes in history, with an estimated death toll of 200,000 to 273,400 people. The earthquake caused widespread destruction in the area, leveling villages and damaging or destroying many buildings. Landslides and ground failures also occurred, blocking roads and making rescue efforts difficult. The earthquake also generated a large tsunami that caused additional damage along the coast. The disaster had a severe impact on the local population, and recovery efforts were hindered by the remoteness of the affected area and the lack of infrastructure at the time.
- The 1976 Tangshan Earthquake: The 1976 Tangshan earthquake occurred on July 28, 1976, in the city of Tangshan, in northeastern China's Hebei Province. It had a magnitude of 7.8 on the Richter scale and was one of the deadliest earthquakes of the 20th century, with an estimated death toll of 242,000 to 655,000 people. The earthquake struck at 3:42 AM local time, causing widespread damage and destruction to the city and surrounding areas. Many buildings, including homes, factories, and government buildings, were completely destroyed or left in ruins. The disaster also caused landslides, ground failures, and fires, which added to the death toll and destruction.
The earthquake was so powerful that it caused the ground to rise and fall, resulting in liquefaction and sand boils, which caused additional damage. The city of Tangshan was almost completely destroyed and many people were left homeless. The Chinese government launched a massive relief effort, but the scale of the disaster and the lack of infrastructure made it difficult to provide aid to the affected population. The disaster had a severe impact on the local economy and the recovery efforts took many years. The Chinese government also implemented a number of measures to improve the seismic safety of buildings and infrastructure in the aftermath of the earthquake.
- The 1995 Kobe Earthquake: The 1995 Kobe earthquake, also known as the Great Hanshin earthquake, occurred on January 17, 1995, in the city of Kobe, Japan. It had a magnitude of 6.9 and was the deadliest earthquake to hit Japan in the 20th century, killing over 6,000 people and injuring over 42,000. The earthquake caused significant damage to the city, with over 200,000 buildings destroyed or severely damaged. The disaster also caused significant economic damage, with the total cost estimated to be around $100 billion. The earthquake was caused by a shallow crustal fault known as the Nojima Fault, which runs through the city of Kobe.
- The 1868 Arica Earthquake: The 1868 Arica earthquake, also known as the Great Arica earthquake, occurred on August 13, 1868, in the city of Arica, Chile. It had a magnitude of approximately 9.0 and caused a massive tsunami that affected coastal areas of Peru and Chile. The tsunami, which was reported to be over 20 meters high in some areas, caused widespread destruction and loss of life. The official death toll from the earthquake and tsunami was around 25,000 people, but it is estimated that the total number of casualties may have been as high as 60,000. The earthquake caused significant damage to the city of Arica, as well as other nearby towns and villages. The event is considered as one of the most powerful in the history of the earth, and it is also considered as one of the deadliest natural disasters in the history of South America.
- The 1755 Lisbon Earthquake: The 1755 Lisbon earthquake, also known as the Great Lisbon earthquake, occurred on November 1, 1755, in the city of Lisbon, Portugal. It had an estimated magnitude of 8.7 to 9.0 and caused widespread damage and loss of life. The earthquake was followed by a tsunami and a fire that devastated much of the city. The death toll is estimated to be between 10,000 and 100,000 people, with the majority of deaths caused by the ensuing fires. The earthquake was felt as far away as Finland and North Africa. It caused damage to buildings and structures in Lisbon and other nearby towns and villages, and also caused a tsunami in the Atlantic Ocean that affected coastal areas of Portugal and Morocco. The event was one of the most destructive earthquakes in European history, and it had a significant impact on the cultural, economic and social developments of Europe and the world.