Nepal’s recent 7.9 magnitude earthquake, which left more than 7000 people dead and around 14,000 injured was the worst temblor to hit the Himalayan country in 80 years. But it doesn’t come close to the devastation wrought by the 10 most destructive earthquakes in the history of the world as given below by NBC News, sourced from the United States Geological survey, Encyclopedia Britannica. Of course, in no way does that undermine the immense suffering of the people of Nepal.
- Shensi, China, Jan. 23, 1556.
Magnitude around 8, toll about 830,000.
The quake occurred about 50 miles from Xi’an, the capital of Shaanxi (formerly Shensi) province. The damage was spread over 270 miles northeast from the epicenter and was heard more than 500 miles away. The earthquake gutted almost all the houses and resulted in ground landslides, liquefaction and ground fissures with water gushing out.
- Tangshan, China, July 27, 1976.
Magnitude 7.5. Estimated death toll 655,000.
This is probably the biggest earthquake death toll in the past 400 years, and the second highest in recorded history after the Shensi earthquake above. The damage extended all the way to Beijing
- Aleppo, Syria, Aug. 9, 1138.
Magnitude unknown, toll about 230,000.
Contemporary records say that the surrounding walls of Syria’s second largest city collapsed entirely. Aleppo’s citadel was destroyed, killing hundreds of the residents. However, the worst damage was suffered by a stronghold built by European crusaders at Harim, which was flattened. Another Muslim fort at Al-Atarib was also destroyed and several towns were reduced to rubble. The tremors were felt as far away as Damascus, about 220 mile south. It was the first of a series of tremors that devastated parts of northern Syria and western Turkey in 1138 and 1139.
- Sumatra, Indonesia, Dec. 26, 2004.
Magnitude 9.1, 286,000 fatalities.
This was the third most destructive earthquake on the planet since 1900, which affected a vast geographical area. Apart from the death toll, about 1.7 million people were displaced by the mega temblor and subsequent tsunami in 14 countries in South East Asia, South Asia and East Africa.
- Haiti, Jan 12, 2010.
Magnitude 7.0. Death toll 222,570 according to official records.
Another count put the number of injured at around 3,00,000. An estimated 1.3 million people were displaced and 97,294 houses collapsed. Another 188,383 buildings were damaged in the Port-au-Price vicinity and southern Haiti. At least 4 people were killed in the tsunami, the waves of which were reported at several coastal cities.
6. Damghan, Persia (present-day Iran), Dec. 22, 856.
Magnitude unknown, death toll about 200,000.
The epicenter of this medieval earthquake was directly below the Damghan, then the
capital of Persia and the damage extended over a 200-mile stretch across the country’s northeast. Most of the city was destroyed along with the neighboring regions.
- Haiyuan, Ningxia, China, Dec. 16, 1920.
7.8 magnitude, death toll about 200,000.
The earthquake wrought complete devastation throughout the Lijunbu-Haiyuan- Ganyanchi regions. Over 73,000 were killed in Haiyuan county alone and another 30,000 in Guyuan county. There were countless landslides and ground cracks over the epicenter and one avalanche buried a whole village in the county of Xiji. Nearly all houses collapsed in the urban centres of Longde and Huining. The surface faulting extended 125 miles from Lijunbu to Jingtai. Some rivers changed their course as a result of the massive quake
- Ardabil, Persia (now Iran), March. 23, 893
Magnitude unknown, death toll about 150,000.
Only 37 years after the enormous Damghan earthquake (given above), Persia was rocked by another huge temblor. It destroyed the largest city in northwestern Persia.
- Kanto, Japan, Sept. 1, 1923.
7.9 magnitude, about 142,800 dead.
This earthquake spawned a wave a firestorms and the combined fury of both wrought extreme devastation over the Tokyo-Yokohama belt. 6,94,000 houses were extensively damaged out of which 3,81,000 were completely gutted. Though it was alternately called the Great Tokyo Earthquake and the Great Tokyo Fire, the destruction was more severe in Yokohama. The north shore of Sagami Bay was left with a permanent uplift of six feet and the ground had fissured across 15 feet on the Boso peninsula.
- Ashgabat, Turkmenistan, Oct. 5, 1948.
7.3 magnitude, death toll about 110,000.
This earthquake ravaged Ashgabat or Ashkhabad and surrounding villages. Almost all the brick buildings were destroyed with extensive damage to concrete structures. Trains were derailed and casualties also occurred in the Darreh Gaz area of neighboring Iran. Turkmenistan was part of U.S.S.R. at the time and the Soviets, who were given to downplay death tolls from natural and man-made disasters, pegged the toll at a mere 10,000. It was not until 1988 that the newly independent Turkmenistan government set the record straight.