History’s Deadliest Ever Earthquakes

Here is a list of the deadliest earthquakes ever recorded in history:

10: Ashgabat, Turkmenistan, Oct. 5, 1948
7.3 magnitude, 110,000 deaths.












Ashgabat, then under the USSR rule, was hit with an earthquake of magnitude of 7.3. Due to censorship, this was not reported in the media so there were no reports regarding its casualties or damages. Concrete structures were heavily damaged and even freight trains were derailed. It is even said that the earthquake might have been the result of Soviet Union’s first atomic bomb test. Many sources list the casualty from 10,000 to 176,000 though a correct death toll was reported by the government in December 9, 1988 as 110,000.

9: Kanto, Japan, Sept. 1, 1923
7.9 magnitude, 142,800 deaths.











The Great Kanto earthquake was a magnitude 7.9 disaster that hit the Kanto, a main island of Honshu in Japan on September 1, 1923. It brought extreme destruction in the Tokyo-Yokohama area, both from the temblor and a subsequent firestorm, known as the ‘Great Tokyo Fire, which burned about 381,000 of the more than 694,000 houses. Estimated casualties totaled about 142,800 deaths, including about 40,000 who went missing and were presumed dead.

8: Tabriz, Iran, April 26, 1721
Magnitude not known, about 150,000 deaths










This tremor took place near the city of Tabriz, Iran on April 26, 1721, and destroyed prominent mosques and schools resulting in casualties of 8,000 to 150,000, though it was approximated at 80,000 only. The quake was interpreted as an omen of misfortune. The earthquake lay waste to a number of the city’s significant historical monuments.


7. Haiyuan, Ningxia, China, Dec. 16, 1920
7.8 or 8.5 magnitude, about 200,000 deaths.
















Also known as ‘the 1920 Gansu Earthquake’, this disaster struck the Haiyuan County, Ningxia in China. The magnitude of the earthquake was said to be either 7.8 or 8.5, with the Chinese government and the United States Geological Survey (USGS) publishing different reports.The catastrophic effects of the tremor were felt for over 125 miles and aftershocks said to be lasted for over 3 years. The December 16, 1920 earthquake is said to have a death toll of 200,000 or 240,000.

6. Damghan, Iran, Dec. 22, 856
Magnitude 8.0, about 200,000 deaths.

Representational pic













The tremblor shook on December 22, 856 and struck Damghan, the capital of Iran at that time, with a said magnitude of 8.0. This earthquake struck a 200-mile stretch of northeast Iran. It killed 200,000 people, with tremors that could be felt throughout the surrounding areas of Damghan causing these areas to be totally destroyed as well, though Damghan itself was not severely damaged. A great example was Bustam, a nearby town, which was completely leveled by the quake.

5. Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Jan 12, 2010
Magnitude 7.0. According to official estimates, 316,000 people killed.











The earthquake in Haiti was a magnitude 7.0 on the Richter scale and struck on January 12, 2010. With an epicenter near Leogane, 25 km west of its capital, Port-au-Prince. The earthquake left a devastating wake of 316,000 deaths. More than 300,000 people were left injured, with 97,294 houses destroyed and 188,383 damaged and  at least 1,000,000 people left homeless. It was estimated that 250,000 houses and 30,000 commercial buildings had collapsed or were severely destroyed. At least 52 aftershocks measuring 4.5 or greater could still be felt even 12 days later.

4. Sumatra, Indonesia, Dec. 26, 2004
Magnitude 9.1, 227,898 deaths.













A total, 227,898 people were killed or were missing and presumed dead and about 1.7 million people were displaced by the earthquake and subsequent tsunami in 14 countries in South Asia and East Africa. The tremblor hit the sea bed of the Indian Ocean on December 26, 2004 with a magnitude of 9.1 to 9.3 or over. The violent movement of the Earth’s tectonic plates displaced an enormous amount of water, sending powerful shock waves in every direction. The rupture was more than 600 miles long. Within hours of the earthquake, killer waves radiating from the epicenter slammed into the coastlines of 11 countries, damaging countries from east Africa to Thailand.


3. Aleppo, Syria, Aug. 9, 1138
Magnitude not known, about 230,000 deaths.











Said to be of 8.5 magnitude, the earthquake happened near the town of Aleppo in Syria on October 11, 1138. Various accounts narrate of how the walls of Syria’s second-largest city crumbled with the citadel, built by European Crusaders, collapsing in its entirety, causing the death of 600 guards and citizens. A Muslim fort at Al-Atarib was destroyed as well, and several smaller towns and manned forts were reduced to rubble. The total death toll is said to be 230,000. With a number of nearby towns completely destroyed and had to be rebuilt. The quake was said to have been felt as far away as Damascus, about 220 miles to the south.

2: Tangshan, China, July 27, 1976
Magnitude 7.5. Estimated death toll as high as 655,000.

Keystone/Getty Images









This natural disaster happened on July 28, 1976 in Tangshan, Hebei. While the official Chinese figures put the number of killed as 255,000 people the actual death toll may have been as high as 655,000. The ‘Great Tangshan Earthquake’ was of 7.5 magnitude, which nearly razed the Chinese coal-mining and industrial city of Tangshan, located about 68 miles (110 km) east of Beijing. The main shock struck at 3:42 am. Its epicentre was located in the southern part of the city of Tangshan, some 9 miles (15 km) above the earthquake’s focus, and shaking was felt more than 680 miles (1,100 km) away in all directions.

1: Shensi (Shaanxi), China, Jan. 23, 1556
Magnitude about 8, about 830,000 deaths.












Known as the deadliest earthquake in history, the earthquake shook Shaanxi (formerly Shensi), China on January 23, 1556 and devastated an area of nearly 520 miles. More than 830,000 people are estimated to have been killed. Over 60% of the region’s total population. Although the magnitude of the earthquake is said to be 8 but the human cost in today’s times cannot be compared.



Sources: United States Geological Survey, Encyclopedia Britannica

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