15 Deadliest Earthquakes In History

The Earth can be a beautiful, fascinating and wondrous place — but Mother Nature is not always too kind. While hurricanes, hailstorms, and landslides are scary, nothing shakes our nerves more than a potential deadly earthquake. Here are 15 of history’s deadliest earthquakes that will tremble your socks off!

1.  Aleppo, Syria (1138)

With several earthquakes under its belt, Aleppo has seen its fair share of catastrophes. Nothing was as disastrous for Aleppo than the year of 1138, when 230,000 lives were taken (and that was after they had the chance to evacuate).

2. Haiyuan, China (1920)

In 1920, Haiyuan County experienced its first 8.5 magnitude earthquake killing 70,000 of its residents.  And because that wasn’t kosher enough for Mother Nature, the earthquake also ignited a massive landslide and buried an additional 30,000 people.

3. Sumatra, Indonesia (2004)

This disastrous 2004 incident should still be fresh in our memories. What was supposed to be another ordinary day for 14 countries (including hardest-hit Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Thailand and India), turned fatal for 230,000 residents when a 10-minute 9.1 magnitude earthquake struck. Unfortunately, this caused waves of gigantic tsunamis to wash out the shores, creating more fatalities and desolate wastelands.

4. Muzaffarabad, Pakistan (2005)

The most similar earthquake to the great San Francisco earthquake of 1906 in terms of Richter scale was Northern Pakistan in 2005 — but they had dramatically different results. While San Francisco only dealt with 3,000 casualties, Pakistan’s earthquake claimed a whopping 100,000 deaths due to poor infrastructure.

5. Haiti (2010)

Not too long ago, we remember being plagued by traumatizing news of the gut-wrenching quake of Haiti in 2010. Ironically, the number of deaths are still unconfirmed but speculated to be between 100,000 to 316,000 (due to poor government organization). The results were so severe that survivors had no choice but to bury their dead in mass graves.

6. Xingcheng, China (1290)

With a death toll of 100,000 people, this 1290 earthquake marked it’s place solidly in the history books. Destroying many homes, temples and storehouses, the earth shaking disaster drove survivors to leave their broken land and start anew elsewhere.

7. Damghan, Iran (856)

In 856, the earthquake of Damghan claimed 200,000 lives and left behind massive ruins. The damage was so badly beyond repair that survivors opted to move out of the area instead of rebuilding their fallen city. Today, you can visit some of the remaining ruins left untouched for centuries.

8. Messina, Italy (1908)

In 1908, Messina had an unfortunate double whammy incident — a 7.1 magnitude earthquake and a 39-foot tsunami. Many of Messina’s ancient buildings were destroyed and the disaster killed 123,000 residents. Afterwards, a majority of Messina’s survivors took refuge in New York City to start over.

9. Tangshan, China (1976)

In 1976, a few days before the natural disaster, Tangshan residents should have paid better attention to their animals. It was reported that animals and fish in the area became restless and distressed (sensing an approaching earthquake). Within a few days, a massive earthquake struck and claimed 242,769 lives. The moral of this story? Listen to your pets!

 10. Kanto, Japan (1923)

If Japan could talk, it would tell you of the distressing earthquake that killed off 142,800 people and 40,000 that vanished without a trace (they’re presumed dead and most likely washed out to sea). Unfortunately, the earthquake also brought on fatal typhoons, landslides, and tsunamis. You name it, Japan most likely has seen it all.

11. Antioch, Syria (526)

During the Byzantine empire, the country of Syria was devastated when a violent earthquake struck and caused out-of-control conflagrations that incinerated 250,000 people. The ruins of Antioch still remains as a haunted reminder of Mother Nature’s deadly intent.

12. Ashgabat, Turkmenistan (1948)

When disaster struck Ashgabat in 1948, it wiped out 10% of its population, claiming 110,000 lives including a presidential candidate of Turkmenistan. This lethal earthquake is one of the most under-reported earthquakes of all time, since it was controlled by the U.S.S.R. at the time.

13. Ardabil, Iran (893)

Very little is known about the earthquake of Ardabil in 893, but it’s presumed that at least 150,000 people died. Historians are still not sure if this is accurate or if there ever was an earthquake, but if it’s proven as a real disaster, this would make it the ninth deadliest earthquake in recorded history.

14. Shaanxi, China (1556)

This behemoth of an earthquake in 1556 makes the rest of the earthquakes on this slideshow look like a mere hiccup. The great Shaanxi earthquake took a whopping 830,000 lives (just a couple hundred thousand people shy of a million). This high casualty rate is due to the majority of the population living in caves (that collapsed on them and buried them between rocks).

15. Tohoku, Japan (2011)

While this recent earthquake was not the “deadliest”, claiming only almost 16,000 lives, it was indeed the most costly earthquake. When the earthquake shook Japan in 2011, the aftermath was so severe that it left the country with an unimaginable US$235 billion in damages. Today, Japan is still recovering and slowly rebuilding their fractured land.

Want to discover the finer side of Africa? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

Leave a Comment