What Was the Greatest Earthquake in History?

Earthquakes with a Richter scale reading of more than 5.5 have caused great loss of life and property, and quakes with a 7.0 reading almost always cause massive destruction.

A number of quakes that took place during this century have measured over 8.0 on the Richter scale. The two most powerful measured 8.9 on the scale, but scientists think that the 1755 earthquake that destroyed Lisbon, Portugal, may have been even more powerful. This quake shook lakes in Norway, 1,700 miles away!

In terms of destruction, the worst earthquake of all time took place in China in 1556, killing more than 800,000 people. The worst recent quake shook Japan in 1923, destroying the cities of Tokyo and Yokohoma and killing more than 140,000 people. This quake measured 8.2 on the Richter scale.

The 1923 Japan quake was so strong that it shook radishes right out of the ground!

About Karen Hill

Karen Hill is a freelance writer, editor, and columnist. Born in New York, her work has appeared in the Examiner, Yahoo News, Buzzfeed, among others.

1 thought on “What Was the Greatest Earthquake in History?”

  1. The honor of greatest earthquake of all time goes to the 1960 Chile earthquake because scientists were able to ‘catch this one on tape’. In other words, there have been a lot of really big earthquakes throughout human history (and even greater ones before we came on the scene), but this one they were able to measure, record and verify its ground motion strength.
    The epicenter of the earthquake (the point on the earth’s surface directly above the focus of an earthquake) was 60 meters down below the ocean floor
    about 100 miles off the coast of Chile out in the Pacific. The nearby towns of Valdivia and Puerto Montt suffered devastating damage because of their closeness to the center of such a massive quake. The loss of human life was not as bad as it could have been because there were large foreshocks that sent people into the streets talking.
    The damage from the quake was not limited to the nearby shores of Chile. Enormous waves or tsunamis (read about the world’s biggest), traveled for thousands of miles across the vast expanse of the Pacific Ocean, reaching the shores of Hawaii, the Philippines, and even Japan devastating everything in their path. The tsunamis were created by the shifting of the sea floor that generated the huge temblor. It was as though someone had dropped a huge boulder in the ocean right over the epicenter of the quake, sending enormous ripples in every direction, traveling at speeds up to 200 miles per hour!

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