The Top 10 Largest Earthquakes Ever Recorded


Earthquakes are a natural disaster that occurs because of the sudden release of energy in the Earth’s crust. Seismic waves are created and the tremors that are felt can be measured by seismometers. Earthquakes are measured based on their magnitude (the Richter scale). There have only been a couple that registered over a magnitude of 9.0 on the seismometer. An earthquake with a magnitude greater than 9.0 is an extreme natural disaster and are very rare.

Here’s a countdown of the 10 largest earthquakes ever recorded:

10. Assam – Tibet Earthquake on August 15, 1950

assam tibet earthquake

The epicenter of the 1950 Assam-Tibet Earthquake (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

There were at least 780 people who died in this 8.6 magnitude earthquake. Many buildings completely collapsed in areas of eastern Tibet. Landslides and ground cracks/fractures ended up washing away an entire village. The village of Yedong collapsed into the Yarlung Zangbo River and literally washed away.

About 70 villages ended up being destroyed during this massive earthquake, mostly due to landslides. The landslides ended up blocking the Subansiri River and creating a natural dam, which broke just eight days later killing over 500 people.

9. Sumatra Earthquake (aka Nias Earthquake) on March 28, 2005

epicenter map

An epicentre map of the March 28, 2005 earthquake off the west coast of Northern Sumatra, Indonesia (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Just off the west coast of Sumatra, Indonesia, was a devastating earthquake that killed about 1300 people. A majority of the devastation occurred on the island of Nias. The massive earthquake sparked a panic around countries along the Indian Ocean because there was a massive tsunami just three months earlier in December. The earthquake only created a small tsunami, however, and only moderate damage was caused.

8. Rat Islands, Alaska Earthquake on February 4, 1965

rat island

Rat Island, Aleutian Islands (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This earthquake was recorded at a magnitude of 8.7 and caused a big tsunami of over 10 m on Shemya Island. It barely caused any damage, though. Just two months after the initial shock, an aftershock earthquake at a magnitude of 7.6 hit the same area.

7. Coast of Ecuador – Earthquake on January 31, 1906

ecuador earthquake 1906

The epicenter of the 1906 earthquake off the coast of Ecuador (Photo credit:

Just off the coast of Ecuador, a catastrophic earthquake that, at the time, was calculated at an 8.2 magnitude generated a massive tsunami that killed up to 1500 people. All along the coast of Central America the tsunami was observed. In Columbia, the tsunami was 5 m and killed over 500 people just in their city. San Francisco and San Diego reported sightings of the tsunami.

6. Chile Earthquake on February 27, 2010

chile earthquake 2010

A building with severe earthquake damage in Maipu, Santiago (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The 2010 Chile earthquake ranks as the sixth largest earthquake to have ever been recorded on a seismograph. Recorded at a magnitude of 8.8, the shaking was felt at an intense level across six regions of Chile. Nearly 80% of the population is made up of the six regions that felt the earthquake. Several coastal towns in south- central Chile were damaged by the tsunami that was triggered by the earthquake.

It is estimated that the losses faced by the economy of Chile added up to $15 to $30 billion and the insurance industry in Chile took a hit of between $4 and $7 billion.

5. Kamchatka Peninsula, Russia on November 4, 1952

kamchatka peninsula earthquakes

A map showing earthquakes in and around Russia since 1900, showing a high level of seismic activity in the Kamchatka peninsula (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This was the first ever earthquake that was recorded with a magnitude of 9.0 or higher. In Hawaii, a severe tsunami hit as a result of the Kamchatka earthquake. There was nearly a million dollars in property damage, but fortunately no lives were lost, although boats, piers, and roads were all destroyed along the coastal fronts.

4. Honshu, Japan on March 11, 2011


A helicopter flies over the damage in Sendai. Black smoke can be seen rising from the Nippon Oil refinery. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A magnitude 9.0 earthquake struck near the east coast of Honshu, Japan, triggering a tsunami that killed about 29,000 people and damaged some nuclear reactors in the area. This is the largest earthquake that has ever been recorded in Japan. On Honshu, there are still aftershocks from this original earthquake, adding up to more than 50 that have been greater than a magnitude 6.0 and 3 that were higher than magnitude 7.0.

3. Northern Sumatra Indian Ocean earthquake on December 26, 2004

2004 tsunami

Tsunami striking Ao Nang, Thailand as a result of the earthquake (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The giant earthquake of 2004 in Sumatra ruptured the longest fault length that has ever been recorded at over 900 miles. The rupture in the earth caused the ocean floor to spring back and lift up, creating a series of tsunami waves that pounded Sumatra, Thailand, and other countries surrounding the Indian Ocean. Some of the waves were over 100 feet tall.

2. Prince William Sound, Alaska on March 27, 1964

Great Alaskan Earthquake

Fourth Avenue in Anchorage, Alaska after the Great Alaskan Earthquake (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This earthquake, just southeast of Anchorage, Alaska, was a magnitude 9.2 and its effects were felt heavily in towns surrounding the area. The earthquake and tsunami took 128 lives and caused over $300 million in property damage and loss.

Anchorage felt the worst of the earthquake and suffered the most property damages. Houses, buildings, schools, and other structures were all devastated; some beyond repair. The tsunami was the most intense part of this earthquake, sending waves of up to 67 meters towards shore.

1. Valdivia, Chile on May 22, 1960

valdivia earthquake 1960

A street in Valdivia following the 1960 quake (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

If you’re ever wondered “what is the biggest earthquake ever recorded”, this is it. The largest earthquake ever recorded was in Chile in 1960 and it was recorded at a magnitude 9.5. It is said that 1,655 people were found dead and over 3,000 were injured. Two million citizens of Chile were left homeless after this natural disaster.

In Hawaii, the tsunamis that came from the earthquake caused 61 deaths and waves as high as 5.5 meters destroyed over 1,600 homes. Before the giant earthquake, 4 foreshocks occurred that were higher than a magnitude 7.0. One of these was a magnitude 7.9 and caused serious damage to the Concepcion area. The aftershocks were severe, too, with 5 of them being higher than a magnitude 7.0. This earthquake in Chile is the largest one recorded in the 20th century. The rupture zone of the earthquake is estimated at about 1000 kilometers long, stretching from Lebu to Puerto Aisen.

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  1. sally


    November 1, 2015 at 10:47 pm

    I had a dream 30 some years ago.It was a huge earthquake in the Pacific Northwest.All of Portland Was under Water.They said it couldn’t happen.Now Scientists are saying It will happen and In our Childrens’ lifetime.

  2. someone2


    September 28, 2015 at 11:10 pm

    I have been in a 10.0 earthquake before and it was devastating. I was at the epicenter too so it was even more destructive!!!!!!

    • Susan


      September 30, 2015 at 3:58 am

      I can’t imagine what that would be like. I live in Tacoma,Washington. It’s predicted we will get a big one anytime. Scary!

    • Mayra Biggs

      Mayra Biggs

      October 2, 2015 at 5:53 am

      How can you been in a 10.0 earthquake when the biggest one ever recorded is a 9.5? Just curious

      • Nyra Tiggs

        Nyra Tiggs

        October 27, 2015 at 7:26 am


    • Box


      October 26, 2015 at 2:13 pm

      come on, man. don’t lie. A 10.0 rector scale earthquake not recorded anywhere or reported anywhere in the internet? you were in the epicenter of a 10.0 rector earthquake? You would be dead bro, no matter how many lives you have.

      We are here for the facts, don’t soil the comment area with useless theatricals.

    • YeahSame


      November 11, 2015 at 5:17 pm

      At the epicentre of a 10.0 earthquake you would be dead as the earths crust melts under the pressure and you would be submerged in lava as you would be in the huge crevace

    • Bill Jones

      Bill Jones

      November 18, 2015 at 5:40 pm

      First of all, the largest earthquake recorded was a 9.5 so that is completely impossible. Second, if you were standing on the EPICENTER, you would have died within 3 seconds.dont lie on a public site in order to get attention, it’s not cool

  3. mykayla


    September 23, 2015 at 5:45 pm

    I’m doing a project in science that is worth 500 points. can you give me ANY information at all on this topic?

    • Lillian


      September 28, 2015 at 11:08 pm

      More than a 4 trillion lives were lost in all the earthquakes in the world!!!!! Pick a website and jot down notes!!!

  4. Akshat


    May 29, 2015 at 2:45 pm

    amazimg facts and if u like these facts u should see San andreas it’s an awesome movie

    • Pacman


      July 25, 2015 at 5:04 am

      even my 11 year old was having a problem allowing for a reasonable suspense of disbelief with what happens in a huge earthquake in that movie

    • Winter


      September 18, 2015 at 12:29 pm

      WOW i am amazed. i has seen and feeled small earthquakes. not huge ones.

      • Cliff


        September 19, 2015 at 10:38 pm

        It’s felt, not “feeled.” No such word exists!

        “WOW i am amazed. i has-(Have) seen and feeled-(felt) small earthquakes. not huge ones.”

        WOW is right!

        • R


          October 19, 2015 at 4:33 pm

          Calm down, Cliff.

    • Box


      October 26, 2015 at 2:16 pm

      @Akshat San Andreas holds 9.0 rector scale as its plot and says that is the highest earthquake recorded. Whereas the highest is 9.5 which happened half a century ago and they forgot that, not mentioning that, there are still other earthquakes with 9 or over rector scale measurement.
      That movie shows way too much hype for a 9.0 rector scale earthquake.

  5. shahid mehmood

    shahid mehmood

    April 28, 2015 at 1:34 am

    may ALLAH save us from all such type of natural calamities…May it so..

    • gajodhar bhaiyya

      gajodhar bhaiyya

      May 22, 2015 at 2:02 am

      how can he save….whose people itself are causing so much of destruction…. all over the world…all satanic people!!

  6. Jessica


    April 2, 2015 at 5:30 pm

    Some really great pictures and facts in this article!
    Juneau is the Capitol of Alaska, NOT Anchorage, although, it is the largest city and main hub in Alaska, that’s why it is a common mistake. Juneau has no roads in or out of the city as this makes for quite an extra detour for many who come to visit the state. By ferry or plane is the only means to go see the beautiful coastline city.

    -From a lifelong Alaska resident ❄️

  7. Zeenita


    February 1, 2015 at 3:57 pm

    A very good sight for projects and assignments………….lots of love

  8. alexander beck

    alexander beck

    September 17, 2014 at 2:49 pm

    Good article

  9. Ed Warmus

    Ed Warmus

    October 17, 2013 at 5:04 pm

    “Stalking Gaia” reveals the connection between earthquakes and world wars.

  10. Jolly Jimmy

    Jolly Jimmy

    May 13, 2015 at 7:19 am

    Some fun and interesting facts, but why the lame comments? Seems that this article draws a real young crowd and a group that is mentally handicapped? School for the limited intellect here? Interesting for sure!

  11. Pacman


    July 25, 2015 at 5:00 am

    Missing a fact like that makes you doubt the whole article.

  12. someone


    August 18, 2015 at 1:52 am

    don’t swear

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