25 Scariest Earthquakes In History

Posted by , Updated on March 25, 2024

In this article, we are going to take a deeper look into the history of the most deadly horrifying earthquakes.

An earthquake is most commonly known as the shaking of the Earth’s surface. It is normally caused when two blocks of Earth suddenly slip past one another. This then causes a sudden release of energy that could either feel like a small tremor or violent shaking.

Earthquakes are one of nature’s most destructive forces. They have the power to demolish cities in a matter of seconds. Scientists measure earthquakes according to the Richter Magnitude Scale.

The scale ranges from one to nine. The one magnitude is the weakest measurement and normally can’t be felt. The nine magnitude is the highest rating which is believed to cause the most damage.



Aleppo, Syria 1138

Aleppo, Syriahttps://www.britannica.com/event/Aleppo-earthquake-of-1138

The city of Aleppo is located in northern Syria. It lays between the Arabian geologic plate and the African plate.

The city is believed to have had a total population of 10,000. The earthquake which took place on October 11, 1138, reduced that number by 230,000. 

The city experienced a small quake the day before which caused many residents to flee. However, it was the mainshock on October, 11th that really did some damage.

Not only was Aleppo destroyed but many other smaller sounding villages as well. 


Shaanxi, China 1556

Fire https://www.britannica.com/event/Shaanxi-province-earthquake-of-1556

Nearly 463 years ago a deadly earthquake shook the city of Shaanxi, China. To this day it is still believed to be one of the deadliest earthquakes ever recorded. It had an estimated magnitude of eight on the Ritcher scale which ultimately killed around 830,000 people. 

he earthquake only lasted a few seconds. However, the powerful shaking severely altered the paths of rivers which caused deadly flooding. In other areas, it caused fires and even leveled vast mountains.

Researchers believe that the devastation caused the two provinces to lose 60 percent of its total population.


San Francisco, California 1906


The terror began the early morning in San Francisco, California on April 18, 1906. A powerful earthquake struck the city rupturing the San Andreas fault.

The horrifying tremors could be felt as far as southern Oregon.

The quake generated deadly fires that burned for several days. Over 3,000 people lost their lives and around 250,000 were left homeless.


Messina, Italy 1908


The city of Messina, Italy experienced a shock on December 28, 1908, that almost completely destroyed southern Italy.

The earthquake hit around 5:20 a.m. at a magnitude of 7.5 and lasting around 20 seconds.

However, it was the quakes generation of a tsunami that really stirred a concoction of devastation and chaos. Forty ft tall waves came crashing down the coast of northern Sicily. An estimated 80,000 lives were lost in the disaster.


Tokyo, Japan 1923


In a matter of minutes, a burst of tectonic energy wreaked massive havoc in Japan.

The first shock struck around noon 30 miles south of Tokyo. A few minutes later, roaring waves started to crash through the cities of Yokohama and Tokyo leaving only destruction and chaos behind. 

This natural disaster would go down in history as the Great Kanto Earthquake. It killed an estimated 140,000 people.


Turkmenistan, Ashgabat 1948

Turkmenistan, Ashgabat https://en.trend.az/azerbaijan/politics/1554271.html

It only took about 15 seconds for a catastrophic earthquake to destroy over 40 villages in Turkmenistan, Ashgabat.

It measured in at 10 on the Richter scale. The natural disaster occurred on October 7, 1948, and it killed about 110,000 citizens. 

After the devastation people from all across the Soviet Union came together to help. Some people rebuilt schools and houses while others donated food, medicine, clothing, and other essentials.


Haiyuan, China, December 16, 1920


China was in the midst of civil war when the twentieth century’s second deadliest earthquake occurred. On the evening of December 16, hundreds of thousands of lives would be taken by a powerful tremor from the ground.


 The earthquake measured at a magnitude of 8.5 and its powered showed by all the damage it caused. Thousands of people were left injured and homeless. However, millions were affected by the aftermath which caused drought and famine to all of North China.


Valdivia, Chili 1960

Valdivia, Chilihttps://www.britannica.com/event/Chile-earthquake-of-1960

One of the strongest earthquakes to date took place off the coast of Valdivia, Chili. The first shock measured with a magnitude of 9.5 which then generated a deadly tsunami.

While sounding coastal cities were mainly hit the devastation sprawled as far as Hawaii, Japan, and the Philippines.

Immense damages were caused by both the earthquake and the tsunami. It is believed that an estimated 1,655 people were killed worldwide and 3,000 injured.


Yungay, Peru 1970


On May 31, 1970, Yungay, Peru experienced not one but two horrifying natural disasters.

The first was a 45-second underwater earthquake that had a magnitude of 7.9. Which then caused a deadly avalanche on the northern wall of Mout Huascaran.

Thousands of tons of rock and ice plummeted towns of Yungay and Ranrahirca. An estimated 75,000 lives were lost and 25,000 people were announced as missing.


Managua, Nicaraguan 1972

Managua, Nicaraguanhttps://www.nature.com/articles/244427a0

Earthquakes are no stranger to the city of Managua, Nicaraguan. By 1972 the city had already experienced two devastating quakes.

However, the one that took place on D December 23rd was nothing like they’ve ever seen. After the powerful tremors, a deadly fire broke out causing millions of dollars in damage and killing over 10,000 people.


Tangshan, China 1976

In the early morning of July 28, 1976, the community of Tangshan, China woke to a freighting disaster. It was like nothing they have ever seen before. The first mainshock hit around 3:42 a.m. and things proceeded to get worse from there. 

The quakes could be felt for more than 680 miles from all directions. More than 700,000 people are thought to have been injured and 255,000 lives were lost.

The aftershock, with a magnitude of 7.1, is one of the major reasons why the death toll and damages were so severe.


Bucharest, Romania 1977

Bucharest, Romaniahttps://www.romaniajournal.ro/society-people/42-years-since-the-earthquake-on-march-4-1977-more-than-1500-people-lost-their-lives/

Nearly 22 years later the people of Bucharest, Romania are still haunted by the 1997 earthquake. March 4, 1997, was the devastating day that went down in history.

A powerful earthquake with a magnitude of 7.2 struck the city for 56 seconds. It took days to find thousands of people that were trapped under rubble.

Over 35,000 homes were destroyed and an estimated 1,500 people lost their lives. 


Mexico City, Mexico 1985

Mexico City Mexicohttps://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/earthquake-shakes-mexico-city

One of the strongest earthquakes to ever hit Mexico City happened on September 19, 1985. The quake had a magnitude of 8.1 and lasted for nearly three minutes.

The severe shaking caused gas leaks which then resulted in fires and explosions throughout the city. Mexico City was almost left to ruble.

Over 3,000 buildings were demolished and 10,000 people lost their lives. 


Armenia 1988


The small country of Armenia experienced enormous devastation on the afternoon of December 7, 1988.

A magnitude 6.8 earthquake caused damage to almost a third of the country. Vital buildings like hospitals and schools were demolished and water supplies were shut off.

Some people went months without electricity. Between 25,000 and 60,000 people were killed and over 130,000 injured. 


Izmit, Turkey 1990


Citizens of Izmit, Turkey were awakened early in the morning on August 17, 1990, to terrifying shaking. Little did they know they were experiencing an earthquake with a magnitude of 7.4. Minutes later two more aftershocks would hit a region 50 miles north of Izmit. In total, around 17,000 people were killed and 5,000 left homeless.

With help from Greece and many international aid agencies, Turkey began to rebuild their country from the ground up. Stronger homes were built in place of the older weaker homes. some of the contractors who originally built those weak houses were prosecuted for using cheap inadequate materials. 


Sumatra, Indonesia 2004

Sumatra Indonesia http://www.tectonics.caltech.edu/outreach/highlights/sumatra/what.html

The Sumatra earthquake of 2004 is considered to be the fourth largest quake in the last 100 years. It pierced a fault that spanned nearly 900 miles long.

The massive earthquake continued to sake the grounds for nearly 10 minutes. This caused some islands to be submerged and others to be lifted up.

The sudden disturbance in the ocean generated a series of 100 ft tsunami waves to go crashing ashore.


Kashmir, Pakistan 2005


Terror sprawled through the North-West province of Kashmir, Pakistan on the morning of October 8, 2005.

A magnitude 7.6 earthquake caused parts of the town to completely slide off the face of a cliff killing thousands of people. 

Similar to the situation in Sichuan, China, the severe damage caused by the quack made it extremely difficult for rescuers to reach survivors. An estimated 80,000 people were killed and millions were left homeless.


Sichuan, China 2008


A collision of plates along the Longmenshan fault caused the Great Wenchuan Earthquake of 2008. The earthquake struck near the city of Dujiangyan with a magnitude of 7.9. 

The Chinese government reacted quickly to the disaster. They sent nearly 130,000 troops to aide in any way they could. Unforetnely, the severe damage made it difficult to reach remote villages.

Not only did thousands of people lose their lives but millions of people were affected by either injuries or homelessness. Unfortunately


L’Aquila, Italy 2009

L’Aquila, Italyhttp://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/7984867.stm

Around 26 cities were damaged after a 6.3 magnitude quake struck the western part of Itlay. An estimated 1,500 people were injured and many pronounced missing.

Over 10,000 buildings were damaged and over 30,000 people lost their homes. The Prime Minister at the time, Silvio Berlusconi, made sure he did everything in power to pick up the broken pieces of his country. 

“Nobody has been left on their own, and we have a record number of rescuers,” said Berlusconi to BBC News. 


Port-au-Prince, Haiti 2010

Around the time of 4:53 p.m. the first shock with a magnitude of 7.0 hit 15 miles from the capital of Haiti. It had been almost three centuries since the people of Port-au-Prince have experienced an earthquake of that size.

The initial shock was followed by an additional two aftershocks with magnitudes of 5.9 and 5.5 

The aftermath of the earthquake left the country in ruins. It killed took over 300,000 lives and compromised Haitian and Dominican Republicans greatly.

Thousands of survivors were left without homes, water, food and proper medical treatment.


Japan 2011


Earthquakes normally don’t come as a surprise to Japan. They normally experience around 1,500 minor tremors throughout the year.

While the earthquakes are an annoyance it has forced them to be ready for anything. However, the earthquake that struck on March 11, 2011, was something they never saw coming. 

Japan’s scientists were left stunned when the massive 9.1 magnitude earthquake hit the northern region of Honshu, Japan. Unfortunately, disaster didn’t end there.

The large quake caused generated a tsunami that crashed through the region killing more than 230,000 people. 


Pokhara, Nepal 2015

Pokhara Nepalhttps://list25.com/25-worst-earthquakes-in-history/5/

The safety of Nepal’s precious historic monuments were jeopardized on the morning of April 25, 2015. An earthquake with a magnitude of 7.8 left its city and people in ruins. 

A few historic temples, a nine-story tower, and parts of a royal palace were all in the path of the earthquake’s destruction. On that horrific day, around 5,000 lives were lost and more than 10,000 people were left injured. 


Ecuador 2016


Ecuador’s more recent earthquake occurred on April 16, 2016. It shook the provinces of Manabi, Esmeraldas, Santa Elena, Santo Domingo, and Los Rios.

The 7.8 magnitudes hit Ecuador’s coast and severely damaged thousands of homes and vital infrastructures like schools and hospitals. An estimated 700 people were killed and 100,000 were left homeless.


Mexico City, Mexico 2017

Mexico Cityhttps://www.washingtonpost.com/world/the_americas/strong-earthquake-shakes-mexico-damaging-buildings-and-causing-panic/2017/09/19/d2b044f6-9d6a-11e7-b2a7-bc70b6f98089_story.html?noredirect=on

History repeated its self in Mexico City on September 19, 2017. On the anniversary of the 1985 quake, another earthquake shook their city.

The 7.1 magnitude earthquake hit central Mexico and caused immediate destruction. Hundreds of buildings collapsed and around 200 people lost their lives.


Lombok, Indonesia 2018

landslide https://phys.org/news/2018-08-fresh-magnitude-earthquake-indonesia-lombok.html

The city of Lombok, Indonesia experienced not one but four significant quakes on August 5, 2018. To make matters worse the powerful quakes triggered deadly landslides. People were fleeing for their lives. The devastation killed around 500 people and made hundreds homeless. 

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