A powerful 7.2-magnitude earthquake has just struck the Caribbean nation of Haiti, causing widespread destruction and causing the deaths of no fewer than 304 people.
Followed by a number of powerful aftershocks, Saturday’s tremor was also felt by other Caribbean island nations such as Jamaica and Cuba.
According to the US Geological Survey, its epicenter was at a depth of 6 miles, about 90 miles west of the Haitian capital Port-au-Prince.
While footage of the current devastation in Haiti has shocked people around the world, with numerous people injured in addition to those killed, and thousands of leveled buildings, the latest powerful tremor doesn’t come even close to the top 10 strongest earthquakes the world has experienced since there have been seismic records – with many of those occurring just in the past few decades.
Valdivia Earthquake – Chile – May 22, 1960
The strongest earthquake on record is the 1960 earthquake in Valdivia, Chile, with a magnitude of 9.5, which caused the deaths of 1,655 people and $550 million in damage.
It injured another 3,000 people and displaced 2 million.
Its rupture zone was over 1,000 kilometers long, and it also triggered a tsunami, which in turn caused death and destruction across the Pacific, in Hawaii, the Philippines, and Japan.
Two days later it was followed by an eruption of the Puyehue.
Great Alaska Earthquake – USA – March 28, 1964
The second strongest earthquake on record was the 1964 tremor in Alaska’s Prince William Sound, with a magnitude of 9.2; it caused less destruction but the devastation was still worth $311 million, and 128 people were killed by the resulting tsunami, which reached Hawaii.
The epicenter was 120 kilometers southeast of Anchorage, and the earthquake was felt in both Alaska and Canada.
2004 Sumatra Earthquake – Indonesia – December 26, 2004
The third-strongest earthquake, the 2004 Sumatra tremor, was one of the deadliest natural disasters in human history together with the tsunami that it caused.
It affected 14 countries, not just the “host country” Indonesia, taking a total of 227,900 lives and displaced some 1.7 million people, even though its epicenter was at a depth of 30 kilometers.
A mud volcano connected with the earthquake erupted on the island of Sumatra two days later.
Sendai Earthquake – Indonesia – March 11, 2011
The Sendai earthquake in Japan – best known for hitting the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant complex – has been one of the most disastrous and threatening earthquakes ever precisely of that.
It claimed nearly 20,000 lives, damaged close to 1.2 million buildings, and caused Fukushima NPP nuclear meltdowns of level 7, the highest risk level.
Kamchatka Earthquake – Soviet Union (Russia) – November 4, 1952
The Kamchatka Earthquake killed up to 15,000 people in the Russian Far East Pacific Coast peninsula of Kamchatka and the Kuril Islands.
It caused a giant tsunami that reached Hawaii, Alaska, California, Chile, and New Zealand.
It didn’t kill anyone in Hawaii but caused damage worth $1 million.
Maule Earthquake – Chile – February 27, 2010
The Maule Earthquake in Chile caused nearly 600 deaths and injured 12,000 people.
Those displaced were 1.8 million people and inflected damage worth $30 billion.
The tsunami it caused reached San Diego, California.
Ecuador – Colombia Earthquake – Ecuador, January 1906
The Ecuador – Colombia earthquake of 1906 had its epicenter off Ecuador’s northern coast, near the city of Esmeraldas, killing up to 1,500 people in both Ecuador and Colombia.
The ensuing tsunami reached California, Hawaii, and Japan.
Rat Islands Earthquake – Alaska, USA – April 2, 1965
This massive earthquake caused almost no damage and didn’t claim any lives due to its epicenter being in a remote, unpopulated area.
However, it did cause a tsunami whose wave measured 10 meters in height on Shemya Island.
Assam Earthquake – Tibet – August 15, 1950
This earthquake killed up to 3,000 people in Tibet and caused a lot of damage in India, Tibet, and China.
Its epicenter was likely in Tibet itself.
The earthquake occurred two months before communist China began the annexation of Tibet completed the following year.
2005 Sumatra Earthquake and 2012 Sumatra Earthquake – Indonesia
Both of these earthquakes at Indonesia’s island of Sumatra had a magnitude of 8.6.
The first one, on March 28, 2005, killed over 1,300 people and caused a tsunami that reached Sri Lanka through the Indian Ocean – the epicenter was close to one of the 2004 Sumatra earthquakes.
The second one occurred on April 11, 2012, in the Indian Ocean off Sumatra.
Despite the warnings, it caused no huge tsunami.
10 deaths were reported, mostly because of heart attacks and panic.