List of Largest Earthquakes in History By Magnitude

March 11 Japan Earthquake, 7th Largest in History

Category: News


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The 8.9-magnitude megathrust earthquake that hit the Tōhoku region of Japan at 12:46 PM local time this March 11, 2011 was the largest earthquake to hit Japan in recorded history and the seventh largest in the world since records began.

The earthquake occurred in the western Pacific Ocean, 130 kilometers (81 mi) east of Sendai, Honshu, Japan. Its epicenter was 373 kilometers (232 mi) from Tokyo, according to the United States Geological Survey (USGS).

It was so strong that created it tsunami waves of up to 10 metres (33 ft).

Initial reports indicate that at least 300 people have died and another 530 are missing. That number will definitely go higher in the next days as more data are tallied.

The largest earthquake in history happened on May 22, 1960 in Valdivia, Chile registering 9.5 on the Richter scale. Last year’s earthquake in Haiti “only” registered a 7.0 but the massive number of deaths (222,570) ranked it one of the deadliest on record.

Here’s the list of largest earthquakes in history (by magnitude):

Date Location Name
1 01960-05-22May 22, 1960 Valdivia, Chile 1960 Valdivia earthquake 9.5
2 01964-03-27March 27, 1964 Prince William Sound, USA 1964 Alaska earthquake 9.2
3 02004-12-26December 26, 2004 Sumatra, Indonesia 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake 9.2
4 01952-11-04November 4, 1952 Kamchatka, Russia (then USSR) Kamchatka earthquakes 9.0
5 01868-08-13August 13, 1868 Arica, Chile (then Peru) 1868 Arica earthquake 9.0
6 01700-01-26January 26, 1700 Cascadia subduction zone 1700 Cascadia earthquake 9.0
7 02011-03-11March 11, 2011 Tōhoku region, Japan 2011 Sendai earthquake 8.9
8 02010-02-27February 27, 2010 Maule, Chile 2010 Chile earthquake 8.8
9 01906-01-31January 31, 1906 Ecuador–Colombia 1906 Ecuador-Colombia earthquake 8.8
10 01833-11-25November 25, 1833 Sumatra, Indonesia 1833 Sumatra earthquake 8.8
11 01965-02-04February 4, 1965 Rat Islands, Alaska, USA 1965 Rat Islands earthquake 8.7
12 01755-11-01November 1, 1755 Lisbon, Portugal 1755 Lisbon earthquake 8.7
13 01730-07-08July 8, 1730 Valparaiso, Chile 1730 Valparaiso earthquake 8.7
14 02005-03-28March 28, 2005 Sumatra, Indonesia 2005 Sumatra earthquake 8.6
15 01957-03-09March 9, 1957 Andreanof Islands, Alaska 1957 Andreanof Islands earthquake 8.6
16 01950-08-15August 15, 1950 Assam, India – Tibet, China 1950 Medog earthquake 8.6
17 02007-09-12September 12, 2007 Sumatra, Indonesia September 2007 Sumatra earthquakes 8.5
18 01963-10-13October 13, 1963 Kuril Islands, Russia (USSR) 1963 Kuril Islands earthquake 8.5
19 01938-02-01February 1, 1938 Banda Sea, Indonesia 

(Dutch East Indies)

1938 Banda Sea earthquake 8.5
20 01923-02-03February 3, 1923 Kamchatka, Russia (USSR) Kamchatka earthquakes 8.5
21 01922-11-11November 11, 1922 Atacama Region, Chile 1922 Vallenar earthquake 8.5
22 01751-05-24May 24, 1751 Concepción, Chile 1751 Concepción earthquake 8.5
23 01687-10-20October 20, 1687 Lima, Peru (Viceroyalty of Peru) 1687 Peru earthquake 8.5
24 01575-12-16December 16, 1575 Valdivia, Chile 1575 Valdivia earthquake 8.5

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UPDATE March 12, 2011: Seismologists at the US Geological Survey in Menlo Park, California, have just revised their calculations regarding the magnitude of the Sendai earthquake. They now say it was magnitude 9.0. Already one of the top 10 recorded earthquakes in history, the revision suggests the quake was even more powerful than first thought.

It’s now ranked fourth most powerful earthquake in the world overall since modern record-keeping began in 1900.

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