If you have ever felt an earthquake then you are well aware of how much destruction they can cause. When an earthquake takes place it literally shakes your entire world and depending on how strongly it shakes it may knock some plates off shelves or demolish entire cities. Earthquakes have taken place for as long as we know the planet has existed. In that time, we have seen some cause absolute havoc on our world.
To measure an earthquake we use the Richter scale which measures the magnitude of seismic disturbance, or in more plain English, how much it moves the ground. The Richter scale is a 1 to 10 scale with 1 being so light it is not even considered an earthquake and 10 considered a super earthquake.
A 1.5 earthquake is the smallest earthquake that can be felt, they happen every single minute somewhere around the world and are barely noticed. A 5 is considered a moderate earthquake. It happens somewhere in the world every month but only hits somewhere that is populated every ten years. A 7 is considered major and although it occurs every month as well it will only hit a populated area every 50 years. 8’s and 9s are considered great and will take place yearly but only in populated areas every 100 and 300 years. Finally, the 10 is the super earthquake, it will only occur in a populated area every 1000 years, if ever. To date, we have never experienced a 10 but we have come close.
The strongest earthquake ever recorded was a 9.6 in Chile in 1960. It occurred in a relatively unpopulated area so despite its large size it only killed 7,000 people. While that is still a lot of people it doesn’t come to some of the death tolls recorded by the worst earthquakes in our history.
The deadliest earthquake in the history of mankind, that we are aware of, took place in 1556 in China. It occurred in a region known as Shansi and killed over 800,000 people in less than 20 seconds. In more modern times we still have had some terrible earthquakes take place and you may be surprised at how recently some of them took place.
There was a devastating earthquake that took place in Indonesia in 2004. The earthquake actually took place undersea but it caused a massive tsunami that resulted in the death of 227,800 people. The earthquake registered a 9.1 on the Richter scale meaning that from a probability perspective it should only occur every 300 years, although because it occurred at sea it likely falls into the bracket of an earthquake in an unpopulated area, occurring every year.
In 2010 we had another significant earthquake this time striking Haiti. While only a 7.0 on the Richter Scale it did extensive damage to the country and caused the death of 222,570 people as well as leaving almost 1 million people without a home. One of the worse parts of this shock was that it was followed by several more 5.5 level earthquakes that also shook surrounding areas like the Dominican Republic.
Clearly the world has been devastated throughout history by these natural occurrences and even in the last 20 years, we have had a number of significant ones occur. The good news is that scientists say a magnitude 10 earthquake can actually never happen. The strength of an earthquake is dependent on how large the fault line is, the greater the fault line, the greater the quake. Scientists believe that to cause a level 10 earthquake the fault line would nearly need to stretch around the entire planet. However, the quake that occurred in Chile in 1960 was a 9.5 on a fault that was 1,000 miles long. In my mind, that is already bad enough.