Earthquakes with 50,000 or More Deaths
This webpage is updated in January of each year to incorporate any relevant data from the previous year.
Listed in order of greatest number of deaths
|1556/01/23||Shaanxi (Shensi), China||830000||8||
The earthquake occurred near Huaxian, Shaanxi (formerly Shensi), China, about 50
miles (80 km) east-northeast of Xi'an, the capital of Shaanxi. More than
830,000 people were killed. Damage extended as far away as Taiyuan, the
capital of Shanxi (formerly Shansi) and about 270 miles (430 km) northeast
of the epicenter. There are felt reports as far away as Liuyang in Hunan,
more than 500 miles (800 km) away. Geological effects reported with this
earthquake included ground fissures, uplift, subsidence, sandblows,
liquefaction and landslides. Most towns in the damage area reported city
walls collapsed, most to all houses collapsed and many of the towns
reported ground fissures with water gushing out (ie. liquefaction and
sandblows). Gu, et.al. says that "the identified death toll of soldiers
and civilians was 830,000, and the unidentified was uncountable."
The earthquake was felt in all or parts of 9
provinces: Anhui, Gansu, Hebei, Hubei, Henan, Hunan, Shaanxi, Shandong and
Shanxi. The maximum intensity is XI in the Huaxian-Weinan area and the
estimated magnitude is 8.
Additional details from Gu, et.al.:
In Huaxian, "city walls, temples, offices and civilian houses were demolished, without a single wall left standing.... The ground fissured and sunk. Water gushed out and formed canals. Sixty percent of the people (several tens of thousands were killed or injured."
In Weinan [15 miles (24 km) west of Huaxian], "city walls, temples, storehouses, offices and civilian houses collapsed totally.... In the city, the ground sunk for more than 3 meters. Fifty percent of the people were killed."
In Xi'an [one of China's major cities then as it is now], "city walls, storeyed buildings and terraces collapsed. Most temples were destroyed. More than half of the houses toppled down. Only 10-20 percent of the walls were left standing. The ground fissured crisscross. Thirty percent of the people were killed."
Even as far away as Taiyuan, "houses were destroyed in great numbers."
In many references, this earthquake is referred to as the "Shensi Province earthquake of 1556" using the old spelling for the province. [ 310 ]
|2010/01/12||Haiti region||316000||7.0||According to official estimates, 316,000 people killed, 300,000 injured, 1.3 million displaced, 97,294 houses destroyed and 188,383 damaged in the Port-au-Prince area and in much of southern Haiti. Other estimates suggest substantially lower numbers of casualties, perhaps as low as fewer than 100,000. The casualties include at least 4 people killed by a local tsunami in the Petit Paradis area near Leogane. Tsunami waves were also reported at Jacmel, Les Cayes, Petit Goave, Leogane, Luly and Anse a Galets. The tsunami had recorded wave heights (peak-to-trough) of 12 cm at Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic and 2 cm at Christiansted, US Virgin Islands. Uplift was observed along the coast from Leogane to L'Acul and subsidence was observed along the coast from Grand Trou to Port Royal. Felt (VIII) at Leogane; (VII) at Carrefour, Port-au-Prince and Petionville; (VI) at Vieux Bourg d'Aquin; (V) at Port-de-Paix. Felt (V) at La Vega, Moca and San Cristobal; (IV) at Bani, Bonao, Luperon, Nagua, Puerto Plata, Santiago, Santo Domingo and Sosua, Dominican Republic. Felt throughout Haiti and the Dominican Republic. Felt (III) at Oranjestad, Aruba; (IV) at Santiago de Cuba and (III) at Guantanamo, Cuba; (II) in the Kingston-Mona area, Jamaica; (II) at Carolina and San Juan, Puerto Rico; (III) at Cockburn Harbour and (II) at Cockburn Town, Turks and Caicos Islands; (III) at Maracaibo and (II) at Caracas, Venezuela. Felt in parts of The Bahamas, Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands and as far as southern Florida, northern Colombia and northwestern Venezuela.|
|1976/07/27||Tangshan, China||242769||7.5||Official casualty figure is 242,769 deaths. Estimated death toll as high as 655,000. 799,000 injured and extensive damage in the Tangshan area. Damage extended as far as Beijing.|
|2004/12/26||Sumatra||227898||9.1||This is the third largest earthquake in the world since 1900 and is the largest since the 1964 Prince William Sound, Alaska earthquake. In 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. (In January 2005, the death toll was 286,000. In April 2005, Indonesia reduced its estimate for the number missing by over 50,000.) The earthquake was felt (IX) at Banda Aceh, (VIII) at Meulaboh and (IV) at Medan, Sumatra and (III-V) in parts of Bangladesh, India, Malaysia, Maldives, Myanmar, Singapore, Sri Lanka and Thailand. The tsunami caused more casualties than any other in recorded history and was recorded nearly world-wide on tide gauges in the Indian, Pacific and Atlantic Oceans. Seiches were observed in India and the United States. Subsidence and landslides were observed in Sumatra. A mud volcano near Baratang, Andaman Islands became active on December 28 and gas emissions were reported in Arakan, Myanmar.|
|1920/12/16||Haiyuan, Ningxia (Ning-hsia), China||200000||7.8||Total destruction (XII - the maximum intensity on the Mercalli scale) in the Lijunbu-Haiyuan-Ganyanchi area. Over 73,000 people were killed in Haiyuan County. A landslide buried the village of Sujiahe in Xiji County. More than 30,000 people were killed in Guyuan County. Nearly all the houses collapsed in the cities of Longde and Huining. Damage (VI-X) occurred in 7 provinces and regions, including the major cities of Lanzhou, Taiyuan, Xi'an, Xining and Yinchuan. It was felt from the Yellow Sea to Qinghai (Tsinghai) Province and from Nei Mongol (Inner Mongolia) south to central Sichuan (Szechwan) Province. About 200 km (125 mi) of surface faulting was seen from Lijunbu through Ganyanchi to Jingtai. There were large numbers of landslides and ground cracks throughout the epicentral area. Some rivers were dammed, others changed course. Seiches from this earthquake were observed in 2 lakes and 3 fjords in western Norway. Although usually called the Kansu (now Gansu) earthquake by Western sources, the epicenter and highest intensities are clearly within Ningxia Autonomous Region. [ 310,92,316 ]|
|1923/09/01||Kanto (Kwanto), Japan||142800||7.9||Extreme destruction in the Tokyo - Yokohama area from the earthquake and subsequent firestorms, which burned about 381,000 of the more than 694,000 houses that were partially or completely destroyed. Although often known as the Great Tokyo Earthquake (or the Great Tokyo Fire), the damage was apparently most severe at Yokohama. Damage also occurred on the Boso and Izu Peninsulas and on O-shima. Nearly 2 m (6 ft) of permanent uplift was observed on the north shore of Sagami Bay and horizontal displacements of as much as 4.5 m (15 ft) were measured on the Boso Peninsula. A tsunami was generated in Sagami Bay with wave heights as high as 12 m (39 ft) on O-shima and 6 m (20 ft) on the Izu and Boso Peninsulas. Sandblows were noted at Hojo which intermittently shot fountains of water to a height of 3 m (10 ft). [ 303,6,312,321 ]|
|1948/10/05||Ashgabat (Ashkhabad), Turkmenistan (Turkmeniya, USSR)||110000||7.3||Extreme damage in Ashgabat (Ashkhabad) and nearby villages, where almost all brick buildings collapsed, concrete structures were heavily damaged and freight trains were derailed. Damage and casualties also occurred in the Darreh Gaz area, Iran. Surface rupture was observed both northwest and southeast of Ashgabat. Many sources list the casualty total at 10,000, but a news release on 9 Dec 1988 advised that the correct death toll was 110,000. [ 233,191 ]|
|2008/05/12||Eastern Sichuan, China||87587||7.9||At least 69,195 people killed, 374,177 injured and 18,392 missing and presumed dead in the Chengdu-Lixian-Guangyuan area. More than 45.5 million people in 10 provinces and regions were affected. At least 15 million people were evacuated from their homes and more than 5 million were left homeless. An estimated 5.36 million buildings collapsed and more than 21 million buildings were damaged in Sichuan and in parts of Chongqing, Gansu, Hubei, Shaanxi and Yunnan. The total economic loss was estimated at 86 billion US dollars. Beichuan, Dujiangyan, Wuolong and Yingxiu were almost completely destroyed. Landslides and rockfalls damaged or destroyed several mountain roads and railways and buried buildings in the Beichuan-Wenchuan area, cutting off access to the region for several days. At least 700 people were buried by a landslide at Qingchuan. Landslides also dammed several rivers, creating 34 barrier lakes which threatened about 700,000 people downstream. A train was buried by a landslide near Longnan, Gansu. At least 2,473 dams sustained some damage and more than 53,000 km of roads and 48,000 km of tap water pipelines were damaged. About 1.5 km of surface faulting was observed near Qingchuan, surface cracks and fractures occurred on three mountains in the area, and subsidence and street cracks were observed in the city itself. Maximum intensity XI was assigned in the Wenchuan area. Felt (VIII) at Deyang and Mianyang; (VII) at Chengdu; (VI) at Luzhou and Xi'an; (V) at Chongqing, Guozhen, Lanzhou, Leshan, Wu'an, Xichang and Ya'an. Felt in much of central, eastern and southern China, including Beijing, Guangzhou, Hefei, Nanjing, Shanghai, Tianjin, Wuhan and in Hong Kong. Also felt in parts of Bangladesh, Taiwan, Thailand and Vietnam. Seiches were observed at Kotalipara, Bangladesh.|
|2005/10/08||Pakistan||86000||7.6||At least 86,000 people killed, more than 69,000 injured and extensive damage in northern Pakistan. The heaviest damage occurred in the Muzaffarabad area, Kashmir where entire villages were destroyed and at Uri where 80 percent of the town was destroyed. At least 32,335 buildings collapsed in Anantnag, Baramula, Jammu and Srinagar, Kashmir. Buildings collapsed in Abbottabad, Gujranwala, Gujrat, Islamabad, Lahore and Rawalpindi, Pakistan. Maximum intensity VIII. Felt (VII) at Topi; (VI) at Islamabad, Peshawar and Rawalpindi; (V) at Faisalabad and Lahore. Felt at Chakwal, Jhang, Sargodha and as far as Quetta. At least 1,350 people killed and 6,266 injured in India. Felt (V) at Chandigarh and New Delhi; (IV) at Delhi and Gurgaon, India. Felt in Gujarat, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Punjab, Rajasthan, Uttaranchal and Uttar Pradesh, India. At least one person killed and some buildings collapsed in Afghanistan. Felt (IV) at Kabul and (III) at Bagrami, Afghanistan. Felt (III) at Kashi, China and (II) at Dushanbe, Tajikistan. Also felt at Almaty, Kazakhstan. An estimated 4 million people in the area were left homeless. Landslides and rockfalls damaged or destroyed several mountain roads and highways cutting off access to the region for several days. Landslides also occurred farther north near the towns of Gilgit and Skardu, Kashmir. Liquefaction and sandblows occurred in the western part of the Vale of Kashmir and near Jammu. Landslides and rockfalls also occurred in parts of Himachal Pradesh, India. Seiches were observed in Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal, India and in many places in Bangladesh.|
|1908/12/28||Messina, Italy||72000||7.2||Over 40% of the population of Messina and more than 25% of Reggio di Calabria killed by the earthquake and tsunami, as well as by fires in some parts of Messina. Casualty toll is based on census data 1901-1911, some estimates are as high as 110,000. Severe damage in large parts of Calabria and Sicily. Felt throughout Sicily and north to Naples and Campobasso. Also felt on Malta, in Montenegro and Albania and on the Ionian Islands. Tsunami heights of 6-12 m (20-39 ft) observed on the coast of Sicily south of Messina and heights of 6-10 m (20-33 ft) observed along the coast of Calabria. Aftershocks continued into 1913. [ 301,299,A-75 ]|
|1970/05/31||Chimbote, Peru||70000||7.9||About 50,000 people were killed - 20,000 missing and presumed dead - and 150,000 injured in Ancash and La Libertad Departments from the earthquake and a catastrophic debris avalanche of rock, ice and mud which buried the town of Yungay, which had a population of about 20,000.|
|1755/11/01||Portugal, Lisbon||70000||8.7||This earthquake occurred on All Saints' Day while many of the 250,000 inhabitants of Lisbon were in Church. Stone buildings swayed violently and then collapsed on the population. Many who sought safety on the river front were drowned by a large tsunami. Fire ravaged the city. One quarter of Lisbon's population perished. This earthquake had a profound effect on the intellectual outlook of Europe.|
|1268||Asia Minor, Silicia||60000|
|1990/06/20||Western Iran||50000||7.4||Estimated 40,000 to 50,000 people killed, more than 60,000 injured, 400,000 or more homeless and extensive damage and landslides in the Rasht-Qazvin-Zanjan area, Iran. Nearly all buildings were destroyed in the Rudbar-Manjil area. Substantial damage occurred as far away as Khalkhal and Now Shahr and slight damage occurred at Tehran. Felt in most of northwestern Iran, including Arak, Bakhtaran and Tabriz. Slight damage also occurred in southern Azerbaijan, USSR. Felt (VII) at Astra and Lenkoran; (VI) at Dzhibrail, Lerik, Mossony and Yardyshny; (III) at Baku, USSR. Complex event.|
NOTE: Some sources list an earthquake that killed 300,00 people in
Calcutta, India, on October 11, 1737.
Recent studies indicate that these casualties were most likely due to a cyclone, not an earthquake.
(Source: The 1737 Calcutta Earthquake and Cyclone Evaluated by Roger Bilham, BSSA, Vol. 84, No. 5, 1650-1657, October 1994)
Data compiled from several sources.