Top 10 Largest Earthquakes in Recorded History

This article will provide you  a list of Top 10 Largest Earthquakes in the world. Due to advancement in seismology and geological survey it’s quite easy to determine the magnitude of any earthquake, it was not so easy in recent past. That’s the reason you will not find any earthquake dating earlier to the 19th century. It does not mean earth didn’t experience any earthquake stronger and larger than these. Geologist and scientist believe our planet has experienced earthquakes way larger than this in the past.

Earthquake magnitude is determined in Richter scale which is a logarithmic scale (in base 10). Which means an earthquake of magnitude 9 is 10 times stronger than an earthquake of magnitude 8.

Earthquakes are among those natural phenomena which cannot be predicted hence it is so dangerous for human life. The earthquake itself does not take lives, but collapsing building, structure, landslide and Tsunami caused the damage. Earthquakes cannot be prevented,only the damage can be minimized by proper planning. See also: Top 10 Deadliest earthquakes in the world

Note: No. of Human fatality is not directly related to the magnitude of an earthquake. A smaller earthquake near human population can have more damage and death than these largest magnitude ones, so don’t get misguided by that.

Top 10 Largest Earthquakes in History

These largest earthquakes have caused some severe damages to human life and wealth. Smallest/weakest of these 10 earthquakes is of magnitude 8.6, which is 6 times stronger than recent Nepal Earthquake (2015) which had a magnitude of 7.8 cause for the death of 3000+ (and counting) deaths. Here are the list of Top 10 Largest magnitude earthquakes.

 10. Assam & Tibet earthquake

Assam and Tibet earthquake

Date: 15th August 1950
magnitude: 8.6
Deaths: 780

This inland earthquake is the reason for the death of 780 and injured thousands. Assam earthquake is believed to have an epicenter in Tibet. A large portion of Tibet and Assam was affected by this. Landslide and building collapse were the main reason behind the fatality.

9. Sumatra earthquake 2005, Indonesia

Sumatra earthquake 2005

Date: 28th March 2005
magnitude: 8.6
Deaths: 1310

Sumatra faced two big earthquakes in a span of just 4 months due to geographically active plate tectonics. The second Sumatra earthquake was less violent compared to boxing day earthquake. Even though the subsequent tsunami killed 1310 in Nias island and Sri Lanka.Sumatra is the only place to face 3 of the Top 15 Largest Earthquakes in Recorded History.

8. Rat Islands earthquake, Alaska

Rat Islands earthquake

Date: 4th February 1965
magnitude: 8.7
Deaths: Not recorded

Rat island earthquake of magnitude 8.7 is the only earthquake (in recorded history) to produce tsunami 10m (32 feet) high. The tsunami and earthquake caused little damage due to its remote location. No deaths or injuries were reported for this tsunami.

7. Ecuador-Colombia Earthquake

Ecuador-Colombia Earthquake

Date: 31st January 1906
magnitude: 8.8
Deaths: 1500

1906 Ecuador-Colombia earthquake at the off-coast of Ecuador caused a tsunami which killed 1500 in Ecuador and Columbia. The Tsunami traveled to the west coast of US, Hawaii and far Japan. Though it didn’t result in severe damage in far location due to low height.

6. Bio-bio earthquake, Chile

Bio-bio earthquake

Date: 27th February 2010
magnitude: 8.8
Deaths: 521

Recent 2010 Biobio chile earthquake, subsequent aftershocks, and Tsunami combined resulted in at least 521 people dead, and several thousand missing. An estimated $30 Billion worth of damage was done by this earthquake. More than 800,000 people were displaced and 1.5 million people were affected by this earthquake.

5. Kamchatka earthquake, Russia

Kamchatka earthquake

Date: 4th November 1952
magnitude: 9.0
Deaths: 2,336

Kamchatka earthquake was the very first recorded earthquake with the magnitude in the scale of 9. Despite originating in nomads land it generated Severo-Kurilsk tsunami which caused widespread damage and responsible for the death of 2336 human being.

4. Tohoku Earthquake, Japan

Tohoku Earthquake

Date: 11th March 2011
magnitude: 9.0
Deaths: 15,800

Combined effect of 2011 Tohoku earthquake, aftershocks, and Tsunami was so enormous that 15800 people lost their life. This was an undersea megathrust earthquake, with epicenter at 70 kilometers east of Tohoku, Japan. With a magnitude of 9.0, it is among the Top 5 Largest Earthquakes in Recorded History. Due to the earthquake Japan had to shut down some nuclear plans to avoid mishaps. economic impacts of this earthquake were huge on Japan’s economy, as this earthquake leads to power shortage.

3. Sumatra Earthquake 2004, Indonesia

Sumatra Earthquake 2004

Date: 26th December 2004
magnitude: 9.1
Deaths: 227,900

2004 Sumatra boxing day earthquake is the deadliest earthquake in the 21st century. The scale of the disaster caused by this earthquake is enormous. In total 227,900 people were killed and 1.7 million displaced due to the Tsunami caused by Sumatra earthquake in 14 countries. The loss is enormous because countries like India, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Indonesia are not considered as Tsunami prone zone, and due to that, there was no Tsunami warning system. The epicenter of this tsunami was at a depth of 30 km in the south-east of Band Aceh, Indonesia.

2. Alaskan Earthquake, Alaska

Alaskan Earthquake

Date: 27th March 1964
magnitude: 9.2
Deaths: 128

1964 Alaskan earthquake is the 2nd most powerful earthquake ever measured by the seismograph in the world, and largest earthquake in continental America. Due to largely inhabited area damage was limited to only 141 human life. Due to the earthquake and subsequent tsunami resulted in the destruction of buildings and structures as far as Hawaii. The earthquake lasted for more than 3 minutes.

1. Valdivia Earthquake, Chile

Valdivia Earthquake : Most powerful earthquake in recorded history
Valdivia Earthquake : Most powerful earthquake in recorded history

Date: 22nd May 1960
magnitude: 9.5
Deaths: 1655

1960 Valdivia earthquake is the largest earthquake in recorded history. With a magnitude of 9.5 Mw, it killed 1655 human lives and responsible for the injury of more than 2000 people. Tsunami resulted due to this earthquake traveled the pacific ocean and affected Hawaii, Japan, the Philippines, eastern New Zealand, southeast Australia, and the Aleutian Islands in Alaska. Valdivia earthquake and resulting Tsunami left more than 2 million people homeless. This earthquake also had the largest recorded rupture zone (more than 1000 km in diameter).

If you or any of your elderly member faced any of these Top 10 most powerful earthquakes, let us know about your experience in the comment section below. We would encourage to help 2015 Nepal earthquake victims by any means you can.

Sadekur Rahaman

Engineer, blogger, Gadget Geek, founder of several useful websites including All Top Tens who loves to read and write.

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  1. The last one in chile is terrifying. Really nice of you to put up all this post. Amazing post , cheers !

  2. [ Smiles ] Thanks for the history lesson. I would never have known that those were the ten largest earthquakes in recorded history if it wasn’t for this post.

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