News / Americas

Chile Earthquake Among Strongest Since 1900

Based on U.S. Geological Survey figures, Saturday's 8.8-magnitude earthquake in Chile could rank as one of the most powerful in history.

If the magnitude of the Chilean earthquake stands, it would be tied as the fifth-strongest earthquake recorded since 1900, when records were first kept.  An earthquake off the coast of Ecuador in 1906 also was recorded to have a magnitude of 8.8.

The most powerful earthquake recorded also occurred in Chile, in 1960.  It had a magnitude of 9.5.  In southern Chile alone, that earthquake killed approximately 1,655 people, left about two million homeless, and caused $550 million in damage.

See more information about Chile's 1960 earthquake

The strongest earthquake in recent years - and the third strongest since 1900 - was a magnitude 9.1 earthquake off the coast of Sumatra in 2004. That quake spawned the tsunami that killed almost 228,000 people in South Asia.

The 1960 Chile earthquake generated a tsunami that caused 61 deaths and $75 million of damage in Hawaii, 138 deaths and $50 million damage in Japan, and another 32 dead and missing in the Philippines.  It also caused $500,000 in damage on the west coast of the United States.

Paul Caruso of the National Earthquake information Center tells VOA that seismologists began recording earthquake magnitude in 1925, and applied those measurements to modern earthquakes dating back to 1900.

Throughout history, the most powerful earthquakes have not necessarily been the deadliest.  The deadliest earthquake of modern times was recorded in 1556 in central China.  More than 830,000 people were reported killed in that quake, which had an estimated magnitude of 8.

 

Some information for this report was provided by AFP and Reuters.

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