The Worst Earthquakes of the Century Historical Events
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The Worst Earthquakes of the Century

As some of the most horrible natural disasters on record, the worst earthquakes of the century claimed thousands of lives and caused billions of dollars in damages. The massive earthquakes seen in the 21st century are among the worst in history, with many sadly claiming hundreds of thousands of lives at a time from the initial quake and resulting tsunamis, which also ranked among the worst earthquakes ever.

While death tolls are often disputed, the 2004 Indian Ocean Earthquake and the 2010 Haiti Earthquake are the worst two earthquakes of the 21st century, with each taking over 200,000 lives, leaving millions injured or homeless, and causing hundreds of billions of dollars in damage.

Sadly, earthquakes, like other natural disasters such as tornadoes and famines, are natural, often occur without warning, and leave no apologies. Many times caused by tectonic plate movement, earthquakes cannot be prevented and are too often deadly for those affected.

What are the worst earthquakes of the 21st century? Sadly, this list will give you that answer... for now.

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  1. 1

    2014 Chile Earthquake

    A magnitude-8.2 temblor earthquake struck off the coast of Chile late Tuesday, April 1, 2014 killing at least six people, triggering a six-foot tsunami and sending 900,000 people fleeing to "safe zones." The next day, on April 2, a 7.6 magnitude aftershock hit the same region.
    The quake struck roughly 62 miles northwest of the port city of Iquique and was 12.5 miles below the seabed, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. A tsunami advisory was issued for Hawaii, but no destructive tsunami ever materialized. Chileans were affected by landslides that blocked roads, knocked out power for thousands, damaged an airport, and caused fires that destroyed several businesses. Most of the victims were killed by falling debris or heart attacks, and Chilean President Michelle Bachelet declared a state of emergency in the region.
  2. 2

    2004 Indian Ocean Earthquake

    Causing massive destruction in Indonesia, Sri Lanka, India, Thailand, the Maldives, and the Eastern coast of Africa, the 2004 Indian Ocean Earthquake is the deadliest earthquake of the 21st century. The quake itself, an estimated 9.1-9.3 magnitude, struck on Sunday, December 26, 2004, off the coast of Sumatra, Indonesia, but it was the resulting tsunami that proved to be the deadliest.

    Combining the figures from the Sumatra-Andaman earthquake and the Indonesian Tsunami, which had waves of nearly 100 feet high, over 230,000 lives were lost. Numerous others were injured and billions of dollars in damages were reported. The 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami is the deadliest tsunami in history.

    In addition to being the worst earthquake of the century, the 2004 Indian Ocean Earthquake also ranks as the fifth deadliest earthquake among the worst earthquakes in history and the third strongest earthquake ever in terms of magnitude.
  3. 3

    2010 Haiti Earthquake

    Striking roughly 25 kilometers from the country's capital of Port-au-Prince, the 2010 Haiti Earthquake shook the Caribbean country on July 12, 2010, at 4:53 p.m. local time. The massive initial quake, which registered at a 7.0 magnitude and depth of just 13 kilometers, as well as the more than 50 aftershocks in the days following, affected an estimated three million people, including between 46,000 and 316,000 deaths.

    While the exact number of deaths is disputed, the massive destruction collapsed or damaged an estimated 250,000 homes and another 30,000 businesses. As a result, as many as 1.8 million were left homeless from the disaster.
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    2005 Kashmir Earthquake

    Hitting near the city of Muzaffarabad, Azad Kashmir, in Pakistan, the 2005 Kasmir Earthquake killed an estimated 79,000, which at the time made it the 17th deadliest earthquake on record. Tremors were felt as far as India and Afghanistan, with the quake measured at a magnitude of 7.6 and a depth of 10 kilometers.

    In addition to the nearly 80,000 fatalities, another 106,000 were injured, most of which were in Pakistan. Many of the injuries and deaths were a result of victims being trapped in poorly constructed schools, homes and businesses when the quake struck on October 8, 2005. In the time since, over $6 billion has been used to rebuild the area.
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    2008 Sichuan Earthquake

    Centered in the Sichuan province of China, an 8.0-magnitude earthquake shook the area for more than two minutes on May 12, 2008. The Great Sichuan Earthquake as it's been called, was one of the deadliest in China and one of the worst of the century, killing over 69,000. As if the first quake was not horrific enough, strong aftershocks, including a total of over 42,700 and as strong as a 6.0-magnitude, haunted the area in the time following.

    Using roughly one trillion yuan, or $146.5 billion, China spent more than three years rebuilding the area. In all, as many as 11 million were left homeless from the massive destruction, which also left over 18,000 missing and roughly 374,000 injured. In proportion, roughly 15 million live in the affected area.
  6. 6

    2003 Bam Earthquake

    Waking the Kerman province of Iran at 5:26 a.m. local time, the 2003 Bam Earthquake hit the area on Friday, December 26, 2003. The 6.6-magnitude tremor was centered in Bam at a depth of 10 kilometers and caused massive damages. According to reports, over 26,000 were killed as a result of the earthquake and another 30,000 were injured, making it the worst natural disaster to hit Iran.

    The quake prompted humanitarian response from numerous countries, including the United States. This issue was especially important at the time as then-President George W. Bush had previously declared the country part of the "axis of evil." Similarly, Iran initially declined aid from the United States, but later accepted the help and allowed the first U.S. military airplanes to land in the country in over 20 years.
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