Top 10 Deadliest Earthquakes In History Based On Death Toll

History has seen many natural disasters in the form of Tsunami, cyclone, floods and earthquakes, causing huge numbers of deaths. Approximately more than ten million people die each year due to natural disasters. Earthquake is a big contributor to the toll. Deadliest earthquakes are not the ones which are powerful and strong, but the ones which causes big numbers in human casualties. Countries like China, India, United States, Philippines, and Indonesia are the top contributors in terms of “frequently hit by natural disasters”. In April 25, 2015, Nepal witnessed a powerful and deadly earthquake killing more than 7000 people. Sometimes, relatively low magnitude earthquakes causes more loss of lives than high intensity as in the case of Chile’s 9.5 magnitude earthquake that killed relatively less. Here goes the world’s deadliest earthquakes every recorded killing millions. (Note: We listed only the earthquakes from the 19th century till date)

10. 1970 Ancash Earthquake

Location: Ancash, Peru | Death Toll: 70,000

1970 Ancash Earthquake

Also known as the Great Peruvian earthquake, took place off the coast of Peru in the Pacific ocean on May 31, 1970 with an intensity of 7.9, which also resulted in the world’s deadliest avalanche. The earthquake and the avalanche together resulted in a huge loss of nearly about 70,000 people. This earthquake is also considered as the worst catastrophic natural disaster of Peru. Ancash earthquake was caused due to the collision between South American Plate and Nazca Plate.

9. 2008 Sichuan Earthquake

Location: Sichuan Province, China. | Death Toll: 70,000

2008 Sichuan Earthquake

China is prone to earthquakes due to its geographical location. Also, known as the Great Sichuan Earthquake hit the Sichuan province with magnitudes of 8.0 and 7.9, killing nearly 70,000 people and more than 18,000 went missing. Many strong aftershocks were recorded exceeding 6 in magnitude hit the region even after months of the actual devastating earthquake. The aftershocks did not cause any further damages or casualties.

8. 2005 Kashmir Earthquake

Location: Kashmir region of Pakistan | Death Toll: 87,000

2005 Kashmir Earthquake

Measured at a magnitude of 7.6, an earthquake jolted parts of Kashmir, near Pakistan’s city of Muzaffarabad on 8 October, 2005. The earthquake took the innocent lives of nearly 87,000 in parts of Pakistan, India and Afghanistan. The reason behind the earthquake was a result of the collusion between the Indian plate and Eurasian plate, which is also the reason behind the emergence of Himalayan ranges. A total of 147 aftershocks were recorded after this massive earthquake.

7. 1948 Ashgabat Earthquake

Location: near Ashgabat, in the Turkmen Soviet Socialist Republic. | Death Toll: 110,000

1948 Ashgabat earthquake

On 6 October 1948, an earthquake measuring 7.3 magnitude in the Richter scale jolted the parts of Ashgabat, in the then Turkmen Soviet Socialist Republic. The extent of the damage due to the earthquake was not publicized in the USSR’s media due to the censorship of the government. This cruel earthquake took the lives of nearly 110,000 and destroyed many buildings, structures and derailed trains. This earthquake was purportedly caused by the first Soviet atomic bomb test.

6. 1908 Messina Earthquake

Location: Sicily & Calabria, Italy | Death Toll: 123,000

1908 Messina earthquake

Messina Earthquake is one of the deadliest earthquakes in the western world which took the lives of nearly about 123,000 on December 28, 1908. The 7.1 magnitude earthquake jolted the city of Messina with a powerful 39 foot Tsunami destroying nearly 91% of the structures.

5. 1923 Great Kantō Earthquake

Location: Island of Honshū, Japan | Death Toll: 142,800 (40 thousand missing)

1923 Great Kantō earthquake

The 1923 Great Kantō earthquake is considered to one of the cruelest in the history of Japan, which had a magnitude of 7.9 and killed nearly 142,800. On Saturday, September 1, 1923 an earthquake hit Kantō plain of the Japan’s main island Honshū, severely devastating Tokyo, the port city of Yokohama. The Great Buddha statue weighing near to about 90 tonnes was moved to two feet due to the high impact at Kamakura, which was 60 kilometres away from the epicentre.

4. 2004 Indian Ocean Earthquake & Tsunami

Location: West coast of Sumatra, Indonesia | Death Toll: 230,000 (Many people missing)

2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami

This earthquake is known in the scientific community as Sumatra-Andaman earthquake, which is considered to one of the strongest under-sea earthquake with a magnitude ranging between 9.1-9.3 on December 26, 2004. The undersea earthquake in the west coast of Sumatra, Indonesia where the Indian plate subducted by the Burma plate triggering one of history’s devastating series of Tsunami causing severe loss to life and destroying thousands of nations. Nearly, 230,000 people were killed by the earthquake and Tsunami in 14 countries. The hard-hit nations were India, Thailand and Sri Lanka.

3. 1920 Haiyuan Earthquake

Location: China | Death Toll: 273,400

1920 Haiyuan earthquake

With magnitudes ranging from 7.8 to 8.5, Haiyuan earthquake is one of history’s worst earthquakes, leaving more than 270,000 people dead and damaging thousands of houses. The earthquake occurred on December 16, in Haiyuan county of Ningxia Province which hit at 20:05:53 Beijing time, which had aftershocks for nearly three years. Not just the earthquake which killed the people, but also people without shelters were killed by the cold weather.

2. 2010 Haiti Earthquake

Location: Haiti | Death Toll: 316,000

haiti 2010 earthquake

On Tuesday, 12 January 2010, an earthquake with 7.0 magnitude near the town of Léogâne, Haiti created a havoc by killing nearly 316,000. But, according to other sources the death toll was around 160,000. Three million people were affected by the earthquake and damaging more than 250,000 buildings and structures.

1. 1976 Tangshan Earthquake

Location: China | Death Toll: 655,000

1976 Tangshan earthquake

Tangshan Earthquake is also known as Great Tangshan earthquakewhich occurred on July 28, 1976, considered to be largest earthquake of the 20th century. Chinese government initially recorded the death toll to be about 655,000, which was later stated to be around 240,000 to 255,000. Another study reported the death toll to be much higher, estimating it to be about 650,000. The earthquake was measured to be having a magnitude of 7.8, which damaged thousands of buildings and displaced many people.


Vinod Suthersan is an young tech enthusiast, Blogger addict, Internet craze and thriving to learn new things on the world of Internet.