Earthquakes occur when the planetary tectonic plates diverge or converge on each other releasing energy in the Earth’s crust, this energy creates seismic waves which in turn shake the surface of the Earth. Earthquakes have continued to play a vital role in shaping up our planet, they have also caused extreme destruction.
Whenever an earthquake occurs, it releases three types of waves, P(primary) waves, S(secondary) waves and surface waves which cause the actual destruction on the surface of Earth. This is due to the fact that surface waves travel across the surface of the Earth creating a ripple effect.
Here are the top ten most deadliest earthquakes in the history of the world.
10. 893 Dvin Earthquake – 130,000
The earthquake occurred on the night of December 28, 893 in Armenia and destroyed the city of Dvin, the earthquake had a magnitude of 6 and it was listed as IX in intensity on the Mercalli intensity scale. This earthquake is often mistaken as the Ardabil earthquake in Iran.
The earthquake left just about 100 houses standing in the entire city and triggered landslides on the Artashat Plateau. The death toll of the earthquake has been reported 30,000 to 130,000 according to different historical records.
9. 856 Damghan Earthquake – 150,000
Also known as the 856 Qumis earthquake, the Damghan earthquake happened on December 22, 856, according to records it measured 7.9 in magnitude and it has the maximum intensity of X on the Mercalli intensity scale.
The epicenter of the earthquake was near the city of Damghan in Iran but the damage was spread across 350 kilometers including Tabaristan and Gurgan. The earthquake killed almost 150,000 people, some estimates put the death toll at 200,000.
8. 1303 Hongdong Earthquake – 200,000
This catastrophic earthquake occurred during the Mongol era on September 25, 1303 in China, the epicenter of the earthquake was near the area which is currently known as the town of Hondong. Although not much is known about the earthquake but it is certain that it occurred on the Taigu fault zone in Shanxi.
The damage was monumental, the town of Zhanzheng and Hongdong were almost completely destroyed, including nearly 100,000 homes in Taiyuan and Pingyang which consequently killed almost 200,000 people.
7. 2004 Haiti Earthquake – 160,000 to 316,000
The epicenter of the Haiti earthquake was near a town called Leogane which is 25 kilometers away from the capital, Port-au-Prince. This was a 7.0 magnitude earthquake in it occurred on Tuesday, January 12, 2004. The earthquake was followed by almost 25 aftershocks all measuring 4.5 or greater in magnitude.
According to the Haitian government 316,000 people were killed as a result of the earthquake and including the destruction of 30,000 commercial buildings and 250,000 houses. The most affected areas were Port-au-Prince and Jacmel.
6. 1138 Aleppo Earthquake – 230,000
The city of Aleppo sustained the maximum amount of casualties when the Aleppo earthquake occurred on October 11, 1138. The death toll of 230,000 people was mentioned by Ibn Taghribirdi in the fifteenth century.
The city of Aleppo sits along the geological faults of the Dead Sea Transform which is the plate boundary that separates African plate from the Arabian plate.
5. 2004 Indian Ocean Earthquake – 230,210
One of the worst earthquakes in recent history, the 2004 Indian ocean earthquake occurred on December 26, the epicenter of the earthquake was in the west coast of Sumatra, Indonesia. The earthquake was measured at 9.3 on the richter scale and it had the maximum intensity of IX on the Mercalli intensity scale.
The Indian ocean earthquake was the third largest earthquake ever recorded in history and it triggered another earthquake in Alaska. The earthquake also triggered a huge tsunami that struck the coasts of Indian ocean and caused incredible damage in Indonesia, Sri Lanka, India and Bangladesh.
4. 526 Antioch Earthquake – 240,000
This earthquake occurred during the Byzantine Empire between May 20 and 29 in Syrian regions and Antioch killing almost 250,000 people. A huge fire erupted after the earthquake that increased the devastation many times and destroyed any structures left standing by the earthquake.
The earthquake had a magnitude of 7.0 and 18 aftershocks occurred following the earthquake, Domus Aurea the great octagonal church built by Constantine on the island of Orontes river was also destroyed.
3. 1920 Haiyuan Earthquake – 243,400
Also known as the 1920 Gansu earthquake, the 1920 Haiyuan earthquake occurred on December 16, 1920 in the Haiyuan County, Ningxia Province, China. The earthquake measured 7.8 on the richter scale, aftershocks continued even after three years.
Haiyuan county suffered 70,000 thousand casualties while another 30,000 people died in Guyuan County, the entire village of Su Jiahe in Xiji County was buried under a landslide. Nearly seven provinces were severely affected by the earthquake including many major cities like Xining, Yinchuan, Xi’an, Taiyuan and Lanzhou.
2. 1976 Tangshan Earthquake – 655,000
This earthquake is remembered by the name of “Great Tangshan Earthquake” and it occurred near Tangshan in Hebei, China on July 28, 1976. This earthquake is regarded as the worst earthquake of the 20th century regarding deathtoll. Tangshan had a population of over million people as it was an important industrial city.
The Tangshan earthquake had a magnitude of 7.8 and some sources say it had an even higher magnitude of 8.2, the earthquake lasted for just 16 seconds but it was followed by a huge aftershock measuring 7.1 magnitude almost 16 hours later further increasing the number of casualties.
1. 1556 Shaanxi Earthquake – 830,000
The 1556 Shaanxi earthquake occurred on January 23, 1556 during the Ming Dynasty in Shaanxi, China, it is the deadliest earthquake ever recorded in the history of the world. Almost 97 counties of Shaanxi province were affected including Henan, Gansu, Shandong, Jiangsu, Anhui, Shanxi and many more.
The devastation was so enormous that it covered an area 840 kilometers (520 miles) wide was destroyed and some counties lost almost 60% of their total population. Another catastrophic loss of life occurred in the Yaodongs, which were artificial caves inhibited by a large population and they were destroyed.